[Editor's Note: Did you attend the Sept. 27 Connecticut Challenge Center for Survivorship ribbon-cutting ceremony? Add your photos to the gallery above.]
The Connecticut Challenge Center for Survivorship in Southport opens to the public today -- the first standalone facility in the nation dedicated to the empowerment of cancer survivors and their caregivers.
According to Connecticut Challenge founder and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Keith, the center is not a building, but a concept. Starting today, the staff and instructors will provide free exercise classes, nutrition information, and a "survivorship community" to survivors and caregivers.
Keith, a Fairfield resident and 35-year cancer survivor, hopes more survivorship centers open all over the nation -- his goal is for the 250 Pequot Avenue facility to provide a model for more sites to follow.
The need for the facility is growing, Keith said in his remarks at the Sept. 27 ribbon-cutting ceremony. There are currently 13 million cancer survivors in the United States -- that figure is expected to exceed 20 million by 2030.
Keith and co-founder John Ragland founded the Connecticut Challenge, a nonprofit, in 2005 to "address the lack of resources available to cancer survivors" in Connecticut, according to the organization's website. The Challenge's main fundraising event is the popular CT Challenge Bike Ride. This year's ride raised nearly $1.5 million for the Center and its survivorship programming.
Before the Center opened, the Connecticut Challenge staff taught fitness and nutrition classes and offered support and counseling at various sites in the state.
The new center "is a place for transformation," Chief Operating Officer Bob Mazzone said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The building that houses the center was once a radiation practice. The Connecticut Challenge leadership, architects, and designers transformed the site from a "dreaded place" for cancer patients to visit into a place to go "because they want to," Mazzone said.
Programming includes fitness classes like yoga, Pilates, and cycling; support groups and one-on-one consultations; cooking demonstrations with registered dietitians; and a community focused on healing and empowerment. A schedule of classes, demonstrations, and support groups can be found here.
While the opening of the Center is a big step for the nonprofit and Connecticut's survivors, "we really have only just begun," Keith said.
The nonprofit continues to seek donations to supply the equipment and other items essential to the free programming it provides to survivors.
"Anything we do is a team effort," Keith said.
Those interested in donating to the Connecticut Challenge and the Center for Survivorship should see the nonprofit's fundraising web page.
For more on the Connecticut Challenge and the Center for Survivorship, see:
- CT Challenge Gears Up for Annual Bike Ride
- Over $1 Million Raised in 2012 CT Challenge Bike Ride