Cancer Doesn't Stop SLC Commissioner's Passion

Posted at: 04/02/2013 5:29 PM
Updated at: 04/02/2013 10:40 PM
By: Laurie Stribling

A Saint Louis County Board member continues to advocate for the homeless while fighting his own battle. Commissioner Steve O'Neil pushed for $250,000 in funding for CHUM's new, emergency shelter Tuesday, while in the middle of cancer treatment. He struggled to speak during the meeting.  

"I'm doing chemo and radiation," O'Neil said. "The voice thing today is part of the effects of that, but all in all I feel pretty good, pretty strong."

O'Neil is battling thyroid cancer and Tuesday was his first day back at work since starting treatment. During roll call, the room gave O'Neil a standing ovation. After that, the board got to business talking about a project close to O'Neil's heart.

"I think for CHUM this is a great step forward," O'Neil said. "It's a great step forward for families who are facing homelessness."

The board eventually approved the housing project that provides CHUM with six new units of emergency shelter. It will be part of the same complex as 44 units of supportive housing.

The project passed the board vote 6-1.

"Steve has been a real champion on the project since its inception," CHUM Executive Director Jim Soderberg said.

This Sunday, CHUM and many people in the community are coming together to thank O'Neil. It's a fundraiser for the $11 million housing project.

While O'Neil is the guest of honor, he insisted the money will go towards the people he advocates for.

"We need to raise several $100,000 more to make this project go," O'Neil said. "So, this seemed like a good way to put a dent in that."

A selfless act from a tireless advocate.

"When we give, we receive more than we've ever given," O'Neil said. "It all comes around."

The fundraiser in honor of O'Neil is Sunday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Clyde Iron Works. It's called O'Night for O'Neil.

There will be a live auction, raffle and a short program. Guests are asked to bring a dish to share.