Our History

Gilda’s Club Worldwide

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Gilda’s Club is named in honor of comedian Gilda Radner – one of the original cast members of Saturday Night Live and creator of memorable characters like Roseanne Rosannadanna, Baba Wawa, and Emily Litella. Gilda was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1985 and passed away in 1989 at the age of 42. During her treatment, Gilda was introduced to cancer support groups by Joanna Bull, her cancer psychotherapist. She found people who shared her same fears – fears that no one else could understand. After meeting other people living with cancer, Gilda – with her characteristic wit – joked, “I joined an elite club that I’d rather not belong to.” Recognizing how important the support experience was to her treatment, Gilda’s dream was to develop a community where anyone with cancer would receive the kind of support she had found. In her best-selling book It’s Always Something, Gilda wrote about her experience living with cancer. She spoke of establishing a support community in New York when she felt better and said, “There should be a thousand of them.”

 

Following her death, Gilda’s husband, actor and comedian Gene Wilder, Joanna Bull and many of Gilda’s friends founded Gilda’s Club in her memory. The first Club, with its signature red door, opened in New York City in June 1995, and additional Clubs soon spread across the United States and Canada.

Gilda’s Club South Florida

our-history-Gilda's-Club-sign.jpgIn 1994, Christina Perez, former Director of the South Broward unit of the American Cancer Society, passed away from breast cancer at the age of 29. Her fiancé, Richard Egitto in addition to many of her friends wanted to create a “cancer support community” as a means of carrying on Christina’s spirit. Drs. Nick and Wendy Masi shared the same vision in memory of their daughter, Jennifer, who had recently passed away from a rare form of cancer at the age of 14. Through the efforts of these dedicated individuals, Gilda’s Club South Florida was opened in memory of Christina Perez and Jennifer Masi, two young women who faced cancer with courage, humor, love, and grace.

In 1997, Gilda’s Club South Florida moved into its first “home,” which was office space donated by Memorial Heathcare Services. In 1999, Gilda’s Club South Florida moved to its current home – a warm, welcoming, historic house in downtown Fort Lauderdale overlooking the Tarpon River. Gilda’s Club South Florida is the 2nd oldest Gilda’s Club affiliate and currently has more than 3,000 members participating in support groups, workshops, lectures, and social activities each month.

 
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Our Larger Community

In 2009, Gilda’s Club World Wide and The Wellness Community joined forces as the Cancer Support Community (CSC). While individual affiliates were able to maintain their own name, each shares the same mission and philosophy that no one should face cancer alone. By helping to complete the cancer care plan, CSC optimizes patient care by providing essential, but often overlooked, services including support groups, education and healthy lifestyle programs. Today, CSC provides the highest quality emotional and social support through a network of more than 50 local affiliates and 100 satellite locations. Together, we are dedicated to providing support, education and hope to people affected by cancer.

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