Gilda’s, a network of non-profit centers named for Saturday Night Live star and Detroit native Gilda Radner, provides a broad range of free support services — from art classes to teen clubs and family social activities — for cancer patients and their families. Radner died of ovarian cancer in 1989. Around North America, 22 clubhouses stand in her memory, each sporting a bright red door.
Ted Huebner, who helped found Project Gilda, the group working to open the east-side clubhouse, says residents would enthusiastically welcome a club that’s closer to home. Many cancer patients understandably find the drive to Royal Oak, the location of Gilda’s Club Metro Detroit, too taxing.
“We have lots of medical support for cancer patients on the east side, but what we find lacking is the emotional and social support, not only for people with cancer, but particularly for their family and friends,” Huebner says. “That was Gilda’s legacy; she wanted to make sure no one faced cancer alone.”
Project Gilda is hoping to complete the licensing process by year’s end. Meanwhile, volunteers are working hard to raise seed money for a $6-million fundraising campaign.
Nancy Kelley, a Grosse Pointe Farms resident, began visiting Gilda’s Club after her second bout with breast cancer last summer and subsequent to a stepdaughter’s diagnosis.
Kelley, who learned of the centers through a social worker, says, “It was one of the most fabulous places I ever discovered.” Connecting in a non-hospital setting with others affected by cancer is “profoundly valuable for people.
“Some of the best therapy happens at Gilda’s, but it’s not called therapy; it’s called a place to go.”