METROPOLIS, Ill. - Most everyone knows someone who has been touched by cancer.
Volunteers working on the Metropolis Hope Light lighthouse project certainly do, like Mark Dillon and his team from Eggemeyer Associates Architects of Carbondale. They were laying bricks around the collar ring circling the 30-foot-tall lighthouse Friday.
The Hope Light is the only lighthouse in the world dedicated to the fight against cancer, according to Rudy Bess, Hope Light Foundation founding director. The bricks are part of the overall effort to raise cancer awareness, many of them personalized by donors to the project commemorating the memory of loved ones.
Eggemeyer Associates has been a partner in the project since it began some nine years ago.
"We were approached back in 2005, and asked if we'd like to design the lighthouse," Dillon said. "At that time, the wife of our owner, Andy Eggemeyer, was battling throat cancer. We thought it would be a great project for us to be involved in, in her honor."
Toni Eggemeyer survived, but in 2009, her husband lost his life to cancer. Dillon subsequently lost his father, and other members lost loved ones to the disease.
"It really hit us hard and very personally," Dillon said.
He said the firm is pleased with the outcome. "It's nice to see it finished. It's a great thing for Metropolis and southern Illinois," Dillon said.
Bess is also pleased with the results, and having volunteers like Dillon and his group involved. Eggemeyer Associates did all their work pro bono.
"This has been a great partnership from day one," Bess said.
Of the 960 bricks in the project, about 150 have already been personalized. Donors can purchase a 4-by-8 inch brick for $35, and a 8-by-8 inch one for $70. Corporations wishing to donate can include their logo on the 8-by-8 bricks for $100.
The lighthouse beacon is visible for 5 miles. The lantern is turned down to half-power, so not to interfere with river navigation, Bess said.
Funding for the approximately $45,000 project included Metropolis Area Tourism grant money, donated construction work and materials, and other community support.
"It's a beacon of hope," Bess said. "Lighthouses are about saving lives. That's what we're trying to do. It's about early detection, and treating the disease early. It gives a lot of hope that a lot of lives can be saved."
Contact David Zoeller, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676.