Cancer patients now have a free place to stay in Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Lynnette Burnette is a traveling respiratory therapist. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year.

“It was stressful but respiratory therapists tend to go to all the codes in the hospital. It’s called move fast and that’s what I did,” she said.

Like many people, she came to Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville for treatment. She was one of the first cancer patients to move into the new Hope Lodge on campus.

It has 30 rooms where cancer patients from out of town and a family member stay for free for as long as they need.

“Everybody cares for each other here and we do our own kind of counseling. We’re just a huge family,” Burnette said. “We’re really close knit, and nobody is left out."

The American Cancer Society and other groups who worked for years to make it happen celebrated the official grand opening Tuesday.

It's named after the founder of Bestbuy and a major donor, Richard Schulze.

“I lost my wife and the mother of our children to mesothelioma now about 18 years ago,” he said. “I had an opportunity in that process to really see what people go through.”

​The lodge has two giant kitchens, an activity room and fitness area and plenty of space to relax. The American Cancer Society says the lodge can also help patient outcomes.

“Patients who stay here have less stress, they adhere to their treatments better and they actually do fairly well overall because that’s a major stress factor that’s been relieved,” CEO Gary Reedy said.

Burnette says the connections made inside mean more than she can explain.

“It keeps you from getting depressed. And you know somebody cares, truly cares and that’s the main thing,” she said.

Learn more about the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation Hope Lodge