Gilda’s Club is named in honor of comedian Gilda Radner who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1986. She got involved with a support community about which she wrote: “people with cancer and their families could cry, laugh, scream and share their fears and frustrations with others like them.” It was there that she found solace, hope, friendship and a renewed sense of control.
Gilda believed that all people with cancer and their families and friends should have free access to social and emotional support. After she died in 1989, her husband, Gene Wilder, vowed to make her vision a reality. Gene and Joanna Bull, Gilda’s psychotherapist, teamed up with family and friends to create a network of “Gilda’s Clubs.” The first club opened its signature red door in New York City in June 1995.
In 1997, Joanna Bull came to South Jersey as the guest speaker of the Ruth Newman Shapiro Cancer and Heart Fund annual membership luncheon. Her presentation about Gilda’s Club, its mission, programs and activities, was received with tremendous enthusiasm and support.
The program was a perfect fit with the efforts of RNS and, most importantly, it met a serious need in our region. RNS raised the seed money necessary to establish a local affiliate and on January 7, 2003, Gilda Radner’s dream came true for South Jersey – we opened our very own red door! Then, in July 2009, Gilda’s Clubs and The Wellness Community joined forces and became the nearly 50 local affiliates of the Cancer Support Community.
Gilda’s Club South Jersey offers support groups, lectures, workshops and social events as a supplement to medical care in a warm and welcoming home-like setting. Our program is free of charge to all members and open to everyone touched by cancer. We are a local non-profit organization dependent on individual and corporate donations. 100% of every dollar donated supports our Clubhouse and our members.
In truth, we have many potential members. One out of every two men and one out of every three women will experience cancer first hand at some point in their lifetime. The people of South Jersey are truly blessed that Gilda’s exuberant spirit lives on in this unique program, where members can join with other “experts” at living with cancer to give and receive the benefits of love and laughter.