Portland-Area Construction Crews Volunteer to Build $1 Million House to Raise Money for Kids with Cancer

The owner of Vancouver’s Marnella Homes is galvanizing construction workers in the Portland area to volunteer to complete a luxury residential property, valued at more than $1 million, near Vancouver Lake. Building Industry Association of Clark County

 Builder Tony Marnella doesn’t want to sell just one new house to raise money for children with cancer. Rather, he wants to build one each year, starting now.

The owner of Vancouver’s Marnella Homes is galvanizing construction workers in the Portland area to volunteer to complete a luxury residential property, valued at more than $1 million, near Vancouver Lake.

After the last donated Bosch appliance and high-end finishes are installed this summer, the 2,827-square-foot dwelling will be sold. All proceeds will go to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, at which families do not have to pay for travel, housing or food while children receive free cancer treatments.

The St. Jude Dream Home Showplace, as it’s called, will be open during the NW Natural Parade of Homes tour in Felida Overlook in Vancouver from Sept. 10-26. The Building Industry Association of Clark County, which organizes the home tour, is helping Marnella connect with donors, contractors and businesses offering materials or services.

“Every dollar generated from these homes benefits children with cancer and their families,” said Marnella, who noted he was granted a new lease on life after surviving non-Hodgkin lymphoma and hopes to establish a tradition of completing many homes for St. Jude in the Northwest. “If we can help ease the pain of kids today and in the future, sign me up.”

St. Jude supporters across the U.S. have raised funds by holding raffles in which the winner receives a new home. About seven years ago, a smaller home for St. Jude was built in Bellevue, Washington, and sold to benefit the research hospital.

This is the first St. Jude Dream Home program in the Portland area, said DeeAnna Janku of American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities (ALSAC), a fundraising and awareness organization founded by the late entertainer Danny Thomas in 1957 for St. Jude.

More than 540 St. Jude homes have been constructed nationwide since the first one in 1991, raising almost $500 million for research and treatment, Janku said.

For what he believes will be the first of many St. Jude homes, Marnella is working off designs for a Southwestern-inspired, single-level house named The Sedona that will have three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a powder room.

On Friday, Dario Ramos of Vancouver, along with a small crew, lent a hand to the project by installing post-and-beam framing. This weekend, volunteers from Aumsville’s Jose Garcia Construction and Hillsboro’s Arm & Hammer Construction will continue the work by putting up walls.

“For these guys to come out here is a big ask,” says Marnella. “Framing a home takes two to three weeks of full days with a standard crew.”

Marnella said he wanted to involve different crews to ensure there will be experienced volunteers for the next project — and allow “18 to 20 guys to go back to their families and share that they were part of this build and are appreciated for their generosity.”


Breaking Ground Excavation prepared the site and hooked up the underground plumbing, along with All County Plumbing. They used materials donated by Ferguson.

CalPortland supplied concrete for the foundation poured by Parker Concrete. Cascade Concrete Supply and West Coast Concrete have also donated to the project.

Gale Contractor Services will donate insulation. James Hardie and FiberMount donated siding materials that will be installed by Inline SidingWillamette Carpentry will donate trim labor.

Other contributors include Indigo ConstructionJeld-WenLima One CapitalNova Caseworks and The Perfect Pitch Roof, according to DeeAnna Janku of American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities (ALSAC) and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

People can give any amount to offset specific costs — such as $1,000 toward the purchase of the lot or $50 toward lumber costs — by visiting the Marnella Homes website (marnellahomes.com/stjude) or calling 503-654-6642.

— Janet Eastman | 503-294-4072