Multimillion-dollar cancer center planned for Pierre

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PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — Avera Health plans to build a cancer center in Pierre, funded largely by a multimillion-dollar grant from a charitable trust established by the late hotel and real estate baroness Leona Helmsley.

The trust is donating $7.5 million toward the building and will match up to $2.5 million in other donations. The Avera St. Mary's Foundation plans to launch a fundraising campaign in 15 counties in central South Dakota.

The new Helmsley Center will be built between Avera St. Mary's Hospital and Avera Medical Group buildings. Construction is scheduled to start next summer, with the facility to open in late 2018.

"Pierre is unique in that it is our state capital and an important city in our state, and yet its geographical location isolates it from more populated areas by hundreds of miles," said Walter Panzirer of Pierre, grandson of the late Leona Helmsley and trustee of the Helmsley Charitable Trust. "We see bringing a cutting-edge cancer center to Pierre as a very worthy project that will help improve the future health of this community and the surrounding area."

The Rural Healthcare Program of the Helmsley Charitable Trust has funded more than $296 million in grants throughout the upper Midwest.

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