Turlock cancer center fund-raisers speed to goal

TURLOCK -- Diane Tate's three children were born at Emanuel Medical Center, and 20 years later she was at Emanuel again when her husband suddenly died.

Debbie Martin started her nursing career at Emanuel when she was 21, and 34 years later, after marriage, kids, a divorce and the death of her two parents, she's still there, helping the sick in the critical care unit.

"The hardest thing for me was to step back in the hospital where my husband died," Tate said Tuesday afternoon. "Now it's a familiar step."

Tate and Martin are two of the hospital's most valued fund-raisers, top producers in the annual Legacy Circle fund-raising event, this year for an endowment at the new Stanford Emanuel Radiation Oncology Center.

"It's about coming full circle," Martin said. "You see a need and have to do something about it. In this case, it's raising money."

Two weeks into the six-week campaign 310 volunteers have raised $372,087, 31 percent toward their 2007 goal of $1.2 million. By 2009, the Legacy volunteers hope to raise $4 million for the Emanuel Cancer Endowment. The endowment will fund early detection and prevention programs, support groups, a cancer library connected to Stanford University Medical Library and a concierge program that will help patients transition into treatment, among other things.

"They're niceties, but really necessities to make this a top-tier treatment provider," said Denny DeLange, the center's director.

In its seventh year, Legacy Circle has raised $8 million in total. Money raised by volunteers helped build the first floor of the new emergency room and the Mary Stuart Rogers mother-child birthing center.

The fund drive is divided into two groups, Emanuel employees and the community. Martin is a leader among the employee fund-raisers and Tate is a key player for the community group.

Last year the community group raised $850,000 and hospital staff raised $350,000. So far, they're ahead of projections, said community fund drive chairman Bill Gibbs, in part because cancer affects so many lives.

"I don't think there's anyone not affected by cancer," Gibbs said Tuesday. "The legacy we're creating here is more checkups, more prevention. The equipment is there, so we can focus on prevention and education."

To donate, call 664-5180.

Bee staff writer Michael R. Shea can be reached at mshea@modbee.com or 578-2391.