As I stood amid 300 people during the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new John H. “Jack” Burbage Regional Cancer Care Center on Wednesday, I couldn’t help but be reminded how truly generous the community is here. It’s almost to the point that’s cliché, but it can’t be overstated in my opinion.
Truth be told, this is the only community I know. I went to a four-year university in Baltimore, but learned after a couple years in a big city my future would be back at the beach. Twenty-one years later, I haven’t left because this is a special place to do business and raise a family.
Sure, the natural beauty of the saltwater and beach were the initial major draws to return home. However, there’s so much more that’s special about this place. Those were the thoughts going through my head as I zoned in and out throughout the speeches at Wednesday’s ribbon cutting ceremony.
Looking around, I realized many area businesses were represented in one fashion or another because they contributed financially to the cancer center being built. That’s why I was there because I donated, albeit modestly compared to others, through my business and my household to seeing that project come to fruition. It’s a special thing for a community of competitors in many cases to come together to advance health care in our region.
This community is full of successful people — some extremely so — but what’s unique here is these people give back in tremendous fashion when a community need is identified and a major fundraising campaign is launched. As I examined the donation placards inside the new cancer center, I was hard pressed to find many businesses not represented. Just about everyone gave to this effort and many tremendously so.
Falling into that latter category would be businessman Jack Burbage, founder of Blue Water Development Corporation, which owns five upscale campgrounds, six hotels and three recreational properties.
Over the years, Burbage has been lauded with every single award possible for his community generosity. He deserves each award he has received.
In a day when sincerity is often difficult to get a read on, Jack Burbage is a breath of fresh air. If you know Burbage, you understand he’s a genuine individual with a giving heart. His nickname is “Happy Jack” and it’s appropriate because he’s always pleasant, courteous, attentive and seems genuinely excited to see every individual.
When it came time for Burbage to speak at Wednesday’s ribbon cutting, it was clear the day was a culmination of a lot for him. It was evident it was more than just a pretty building.
“This cancer center is another piece to the puzzle of serving our community. What a great community hospital this is. Just think about this hospital and how many lives have been saved by having this hospital and not having to drive to Salisbury,” Burbage said. “… How many people’s lives have been saved? If it’s just one, it was worth it.”
Burbage added, “I would like to tell you what this cancer center means to me. It’s one word – life. It allows fathers to see their sons graduate. It allows mothers to see their daughters in dance class. It allows things to happen that wouldn’t normally happen. That’s why this cancer center is so important.”
For Burbage, his monetary contribution to the cancer center was clearly personal as well as an attempt to help the community. He lost his mother to bone cancer when he was just 11 years old.
“… It was a struggle for me growing up. It was a little tough. But God has always been there for me. He’s always been there to pick you up and carry you, whatever you need. I’ve been very blessed by him. As I’ve said before, you can’t out give God, no matter what you do,” said an emotional Burbage. “I don’t want to see another child suffer if we can help it. We can do that with your help. This facility is close to home so everyone can get the care they need with your help. … I wish it wasn’t my name on this building and instead was all of your names. You all made this happen.”
That may be true, but I’m personally thrilled to see Jack’s name on that building I drive by multiple times each day.