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Groundbreaking in Towson set for cancer survivors park H&R; Block co-founder financed project as tribute


Ground will be broken today in Towson for the R. A. Bloch Cancer Survivors Park, which is to be a tribute and an inspiration to people who are battling or have beaten the disease.

The 1-acre property is owned by Baltimore County, but the park is being financed by a $1 million gift from Richard A. Bloch, a co-founder of tax giant H&R; Block and himself a cancer survivor.

Mr. Bloch is out of the country and will not attend the 10 a.m. ceremony. The park is at the corner of Goucher Boulevard and Fairmount Avenue, next to Towson Town Center and immediately east of the Nordstrom department store.

The Towson architectural firm of William F. Kirwin Inc. won the competition to design the park. The two-level Kirwin design, which features a waterfall and an area for statuary, was chosen from about 30 entries.

"Depending on the weather, the park should be completed in late spring," Mr. Kirwin said.

The Kirwin company designed the landscaping at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and the Korean War Memorial in Canton. Independent architects Werner A. Mueller and Luke Tigue worked with Mr. Kirwin and Tom Kramer on the architectural design.

Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. is donating about $160,000 in time and labor for engineering work.

Mr. Bloch was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1978 and told he had three months to live. He got a second opinion from a doctor who told him: "We're going to cure you so that you can work for cancer."

He and his wife, Annette, have devoted their lives -- and a good part of their fortune -- to helping people battle the disease.

The prototype survivors park, built in 1989, is in Mr. Bloch's hometown of Kansas City, Mo. Other parks have been built or are being built in Omaha, Neb.; Columbus, Ohio; Cleveland; and New Orleans.

Maintenance funds will come out of the $1 million gift, and Towson Town Center will make a small number of parking spaces available on its lot for park visitors.

The park will include eight life-size bronze figures depicting phases of cancer treatment and a computer in an enclosed kiosk listing the names of all five-year cancer survivors in the Baltimore area who agree to be included.

Maryland has the highest cancer death rate among the 50 states, according to the American Cancer Society.

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