Yes. There is a rulebook when you join Gilda’s Club. And there are a few things people just don’t say, like “cancer patient” or “cancer victim,” according to club members who have opened Gilda’s Red Doors looking for “love and laughter while living with cancer.”
Founded in 1995 by Gilda Radner’s husband Gene Wilder and close friend Joanna Bull, Gilda’s Club is an organization that provides club members, their friends and family a place to retreat, laugh and learn during an extremely emotional time. Radner died in 1989 following a three-year battle with ovarian cancer. In addition to offering emotional and social support, Gilda’s Club enables those living with cancer or impacted by cancer to restore control in what might seem like an out of control situation through laughter.
“There was a deep need for a place where people could be together, experience their illness together, and be helped in understanding the deepest existential issues of life,” according to Bull, who was also Radner’s cancer psychotherapist. “We’re helping people to view cancer as a chronic disease that can be lived with, not a death sentence.”
While each Gilda’s Club is unique, there are a few similarities. Each clubhouse has a resource center, great room, kitchen, dining room, game room and special place for kids, aptly named Noogieland, after one of Radner’s favorite pastimes (giving and receiving Noogies while on the set of Saturday Night Live).
Every Gilda’s Club across the country holds events and fundraisers to offset the cost of day-to-day expenses. In Rochester, the best-known annual event is called Gilda’s Gala, where local businesses donate items for auction. This year, Whole Latte Love™ donated a new Gaggia Titanium to the Gilda’s Club, and the annual event raised more than $180,000 according to gala coordinator Patience Long. “It was a wonderful evening,” Long said. “It was great to see so many people in the community come out for it.”
If you’re looking for more information about Gilda’s Club, how to become involved or simply news and events, visit www.gildasclub.org
Currently there are 22 clubs scattered across the country and 9 more on the way. Gilda’s Club has helped thousands of individuals learn what it means to live with cancer.
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