Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids marks 20 years

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Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids on Monday will celebrate 20 years of providing free emotional health care to children, adults, families and friends on any kind of cancer journey or those grieving the death of someone in their life due to any cause. Courtesy Gilda's Club Grand Rapids

A local nonprofit that provides cancer and grief support to individuals and families is celebrating two decades with virtual festivities and a match donation drive.

Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids on Monday will celebrate 20 years of providing free emotional health care to children, adults, families and friends on any kind of cancer journey or those grieving the death of someone in their life due to any cause.

The organization is celebrating its anniversary virtually throughout the day with various activities. Additionally, the first $20,000 in donations made to Gilda’s Club in honor of its anniversary will be matched, dollar for dollar, by the Peter C. and Emajean Cook Foundation.

The three virtual events being held are free, but an RSVP to rsvp@gildasclubgr.org will be needed to get access to the Zoom meeting. The events include:

  • Program update: a brief explanation of Gilda’s Club’s mission of offering free cancer and grief health support and what its programs include — 10 a.m.
  • Celebrate Gilda’s history: co-founders Caroline (Twink) Frey and Susan Smith will share how Gilda’s Club began and important events along the way — noon
  • Engagement opportunity: conversations with community partners on ways individuals and organizations can play a part in Gilda’s Club’s community support — 4 p.m.

The Gilda’s Club organization was founded in New York City in 1995 and was named in honor of the late comedian Gilda Radner, who died of ovarian cancer in 1989.

Founded by cancer survivors Frey, Smith and Deb Bailey, Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids opened its doors on Feb. 15, 2001, after Frey — a cancer survivor and local philanthropist who personally knew the lack of social and emotional support resources available in the area — launched a grassroots movement to bring a Gilda’s Club to Grand Rapids in the spring of 1996.

Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids is affiliated with the Cancer Support Community, a network of 44 clubs across North America. Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids is independently operated by a local board of directors.

“One hundred percent of every dollar raised stays right here in West Michigan,” said Wendy Wigger, Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids president. “Gilda’s Club’s programs are sustained through the generosity of our community. Contributions stay local to help us further fulfill our mission of free cancer and grief support. Over our 20 years of service, we have had over a half-million program contacts.”

More information about Gilda’s Club is at gildasclubgr.org.

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