Ballantyne company teams up with ACS

The American Cancer Society doesn’t have a Hope Lodge in Charlotte. But it does have seven Extended Stay Americas that will work just as well thanks to a new partnership between the two national companies announced recently in Ballantyne.

Extended Stay America, which has its headquarters on North Community House Road, is giving 20,000 hotel stays to American Cancer Society patients. Patients across the country will benefit from the currently two-year program, where 10,000 rooms will be donated to patients in need for free and another 10,000 will be booked at a special rate of $12 per night.

Representatives with the American Cancer Society say the program will be vital for patients who have to travel, often with families, to get life-saving treatments. Not having to pay for a hotel room is one less thing for families to worry about.

“If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, and a doctor said your best chance for care is in another city … you think ‘Where am I going to stay and how am I going to pay for it?’” said Kristen Solt, vice president of the society’s Hope Lodge program. There are 31 Hope Lodges located across the country to give cancer patients a place to stay, but there are none in the Charlotte area due to a lower number of patients who travel for care in Charlotte through the American Cancer Society, Solt said. There are a little more than 1,000 people traveling to Charlotte for treatment per year, Solt said, so while a Hope Lodge isn’t on the schedule for the Queen City, having the benefit of Extended Stay America’s donation will help patients being treated nearby.

“We can extend the reach of the Hope Lodge program,” said Rick Canale, vice president of marketing strategy and planning for Extended Stay.

Extended Stay America recently started searching for a charity partner to work with, Canale said. Once company leaders realized how many employees’ lives had been touched by cancer, “we realized we had found our partner,” he said.

The partnership will involve more than just free rooms. Each Extended Stay America – there are 684 currently – will serve as a place for people to make donations to the American Cancer Society, while the hotel chain also will become more involved in organizing teams to take part in the organization’s Relay For Life fundraisers. The second annual Relay For Life Ballantyne event took place at the Morrison Family YMCA last May.

Through the 20,000 rooms, the Relay teams and donation collections at their hotels, Canale hopes Extended Stay America can remove a burden from people really in need of a helping hand.

“Cancer unfortunately is a disease that touches too many of us,” Canale said. “And unfortunately, there’s people who can’t afford the treatment. Not having the money to stay some place where they can seek cancer treatment is an obstacle that would prevent them from getting the care.

“We believe we really are saving lives by doing this.”

The partnership will start in Houston, Boston and Atlanta before moving to the rest of the country, Solt said. Patients will call a 1-800 number and be booked a room through the American Cancer Society.

Find more information on help for traveling cancer patients at www.cancer.org/treatment/supportprogramsservices/hopelodge.  Find more information on Extended Stay America at www.extendedstayamerica.com.

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