By Sandy Towers
Founder, Gilda’s Club Middle Tennessee
Where have the years gone? Twenty years, to be exact. It’s hard to believe this is how long it’s been since Gilda’s Club first opened its red door in Middle Tennessee – ready to serve the Nashville community and beyond. And what a 20 years it’s been! I could cite any number of statistics that speak to the positive impact we’ve had on thousands of lives during this time, but, instead, I want to focus on the people side of our story.
Our first official member was Ruth – a lovely woman, wife, and mother who actually never made it into the clubhouse before she passed away. Her daughter still stays in touch – mindful of how our lives connected and were enriched by one another. Other women come to mind, too – Nancy, Pam, Jane, Gail, Debbye, and Becky to name a few. Gilda’s was there not just for them, but also for their husbands, brothers, sisters, children, and grandparents. A FREE cancer support community available to anyone impacted by cancer, whose mission is to support and educate – always allowing each participant to come as they are…be themselves.
Of course, many men also walked through the red door – sometimes more hesitantly than women – but once they entered and met the community of people at Gilda’s Club, the lessons learned and support offered was undeniable. Fred, Denny, David, John, Joseph, Ezra – men of strength and courage, who found what they needed to move through their cancer experience in the best possible way.
And I remember the children. Perhaps their mom or dad had cancer, or they themselves had been diagnosed, but upon entering Noogieland, they were all just kids hanging out, laughing and playing together, and sharing their experiences under the watchful and experienced eye of our skilled and loving program staff.
My favorite Gilda Radner quote: “While we have the gift of life, the only real tragedy is to allow part of us to die – whether our spirit, our creativity, or our glorious uniqueness.” At Gilda’s, the gift of life is embraced no matter how long or short it might be. And the spirit, creativity, and glorious uniqueness of everyone who walks through the red door makes up the beautiful and powerful community we call Gilda’s Club – for which I will be forever grateful for the good fortune to be a part of.