Park offers inspiration for surviving cancer Hope: An acre of land in busy Towson has been transformed into a quiet place of encouragement for people battling cancer.

October 15, 1997|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County's newest park has an unusual but inspiring message: "Cancer -- There is hope."

The 1-acre parcel at Goucher Boulevard and Fairmount Avenue in Towson will be dedicated today, with life-size bronze sculptures, a cascading waterfall, a computerized registry of cancer survivors and a "Positive Mental Attitude Walk."

The 10 a.m. ceremony for the Richard and Annette Bloch Cancer Survivors Park will feature its largest benefactor, Richard A. Bloch, co-founder of H&R Block and a cancer survivor.

The Blochs, who donated $1.1 million for the park, arrived in Towson yesterday to preview the site -- one of 12 cancer survivors parks across the nation. They plan to build parks in cities with populations of 1 million or more, they said.

"We have 54 to do," said Mr. Bloch, 71, who was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in 1978 and told he had three months to live.

He got a second opinion, underwent chemotherapy -- and survived the cancer.

"We have a great debt to pay," said Mrs. Bloch, 70. "That's why we do this."

The Blochs have devoted their lives to helping people battle cancer. The prototype survivors park, built in 1989, is in the Blochs' hometown of Kansas City, Mo.

"We want people to realize death and cancer are not synonymous," Mrs. Bloch said.

Added Mr. Bloch, "Our goal is to convince people to fight cancer. If we can get two or three people to do that a year, it's worth it."

They selected the Towson location after being contacted by employees of the Baltimore County Recreation and Parks Department, which donated land for the park.

"It was a chance to do something good," said Wayne Harman, former director of the department. "How many times do you get to do that?"

Persuading Mr. Bloch took time, though.

"He thought Baltimore County was out in the boondocks," Harman said, laughing.

But a visit convinced Mr. Bloch that the park, near Towson Town Center, was in a highly traveled area that would be noticed, Harman said. Groundbreaking took place two years ago.

The park, designed by the Towson architectural firm of William R. Kirwin Inc., features much symbolism. Ten concrete columns, connected by a jagged walk, show how the path to recovery might take many directions. Bronze figures passing through a maze suggest the stages of cancer treatment and success. The waterfall and reflecting pool have meaning -- cleansing and healing.

Along a concrete walk at the top of the two-tiered park, Mr. Bloch wrote the 16 messages featured on plaques. He offers such encouraging words as "Know all your options," "Knowledge heals" and "Cancer is the most curable of all chronic diseases."

The registry will feature the stories of Maryland cancer survivors, as well as information about treatment.

Pub Date: 10/15/97

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