The Richard and Annette Bloch Cancer Survivors Park

Sometimes, we see something so often that we forget how cool and special it is. So it was for us with the Richard and Annette Bloch Cancer Survivors Park. We see this little gem every time we go to Burton Barr Central Library or Giant Coffee (the park sits between them), but we never gave the park a second thought beyond occasionally strolling through it.

Last week, we saw a series of photos on Facebook (under the Cone Arts profile) taken at the park by Kathy Cone (owner of Cone Gallery Arts at Garfield Galleria), and it reminded us how hip and deep the Cancer Survivors Park really is, with its ornate bronze statues and series of plaques with inspirational quotes.

The Richard and Annette Bloch Cancer Survivors Park stretches a full block on First Street, from Willetta to McDowell. In addition to the plaques, which contain quotes like "Make a commitment to do everything in your power to help yourself fight the disease" and "Cancer is the most curable of all chronic diseases," there's a nice shaded gazebo surrounded by cactuses, and a colorful obilisk in the center (it's the centerpiece of a dry fountain).

But the highlight of the park are the bronze sculptures by artist Victor Salmones. The piece is called "Cancer...There's Hope," and it depicts eight people in various stages of fighting cancer. At the back are five figures meant to represent cancer patients and their supporters as they enter treatment. Treatment is represented by a large bronze maze, and there's a figure of a young woman working her way through the maze. At the front of the maze are three figures representing people who've had successful cancer treatments.

​The founder of the park, Richard Bloch, was a two-time cancer survivor himself. Bloch co-founded the tax preparation service H&R Block with his brother, but in 1978, he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and told he had only a few months left to live. He survived, following two years of aggressive treatments, and in 1980, he began focusing his energies on cancer research and support. His first step was founding the Cancer Hotline.

Bloch sold his share of H&R Block in 1982, and with his wife Annette, he went on to found the R.A. Bloch Cancer Management Center and the R.A. Bloch Cancer Support Center at the University of Missouri -- Kansas City. Under President Ronald Reagan, Bloch served a six-year term on the National Cancer Advisory Board from 1982 to 1988. He also beat cancer again in the 80s - this time in his colon. Richard Bloch lived until 2004, when he died of heart failure.

​There are now 24 Richard and Annette Bloch Cancer Survivors parks throughout U.S. and Canada. According to the website, "Cancer Survivor Parks promote survivorship and provide common sense information that will guide and support the patient through his or her cancer journey."

The Richard and Annette Bloch Cancer Survivors Park is located at First Street and Willetta in Phoenix. Call 602-262-6412 for more information.