My sister believed deeply in the power of social and emotional support in the face of cancer. She benefited from it first-hand when she became a part of Los Angeles’ Wellness Community – which inspired Gilda’s Club – and it changed her life. Even as a relatively famous person, when Gilda was with her cancer support community, she was them and they were her. She may have been the funnier one, but she could blend in and be comfortable, because they were all going through the same thing, together.
During Gilda’s illness, in the years following her death, and to this very day, I have had the opportunity to experience the power of social and emotional cancer support, too, and in a variety of ways. From helping Joanna [Bull] and Gene [Wilder] in their efforts to build what would become Gilda’s Club, with its flagship location in New York City, to serving on the board of Gilda’s Club Worldwide and Gilda’s Club Metro Detroit (and on Gilda’s Club Middle Tennessee’s Advisory Board), to supporting Gilda’s Club affiliates across the U.S. and Canada, I’ve been able to honor my sister, while helping people get something they truly benefit from. And they’re always eager to share their stories.
For example, every year, Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids hosts a 10-day comedy event called LaughFest that, as a Michigan resident, I do my best to attend. During LaughFest, there is a Signature Event dinner with a thousand people and a comedy headliner. And every year, when people see me there and learn I’m Gilda’s brother, they’ll cross a room to tell me their stories… to tell me how important Gilda’s Club has been in their life. It never fails to amaze me… Gilda would have been thrilled.
It feels good knowing, that because of the nationwide network of Gilda’s Clubs, there are thousands upon thousands of people whose lives have been made better. They might have been in the middle of a journey – not knowing where it was going to end – but Gilda’s Club made the journey better. At a time when people often don’t want to see another doctor’s office or hospital, or hear about another treatment, Gilda’s Club is the one thing they can look forward to… a place where they can be with their loved ones and others who get it.
When you believe in something as deeply as I believe in Gilda’s Club, you keep supporting it… you keep showing up for it. And when you do, you’re helping the organization make the world feel like a better place.