GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — February 15, 2021 will mark 20 years since the doors of Gilda's Club Grand Rapids opened.
"Our mission is to provide free emotional health support to anybody on any kind of a cancer journey, anyone connected to someone on a cancer journey, or anyone dealing with a death in their life due to any cause. It's not just cancer related," said Wendy Wigger, the president of Gilda's Club Grand Rapids. "We looked at the number of folks that we served. It's about a half a million people over those 20 years, which is amazing, when you think about the Grand Rapids and West Michigan community."
The club was started by three women- all breast cancer survivors- who wanted to bring the support services to West Michigan.
"They had seen a story about the Gilda's Club that opened up in New York after Gilda Radner, our Saturday Night Live comedian, that had passed away," explained Wigger. "Upon her death, the first Gilda's Club opened up in in New York. We were the 12th club to open up nationally."
Tori and Molly Quist are among the many who have been helped by Gilda's Club.
The sisters, ages 15 and 11 respectively, were introduced to Gilda's just a few months after losing their dad suddenly to a heart attack nearly six years ago.
"You don't want to have to meet people who have also lost their parents, but in the same sense it's nice to know that you're not alone," said Tori.
Molly added, "I feel like I would still be grieving like a lot...because I've gotten better. But, I feel like I wouldn't have gotten better if I didn't go to Gilda's."
The 20th anniversary will be celebrated virtually with a number of events.
The first $20,000 in donations made to Gilda's Club Grand Rapids in honor of the anniversary will be matched dollar for dollar, thanks to the Peter C. and Emajean Cook Foundation.
For more information, visit the website.
The following information has been provided by Gilda's Club Grand Rapids:
The three virtual events being held on Feb. 15 are free but an RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org will be needed to get access to the ZOOM meeting. The events include:
• 10 a.m. – Program Update; a brief explanation of Gilda’s Club’s mission of offering free cancer and grief health support, and what the programs include.
• Noon – 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.
• 4p.m. – Engagement Opportunity