The Gilda’s Club Conclusion – The Terrifying Power of Social Media

Gilda Radner

I want to be crystal clear: I don’t want anybody to stop giving donations to the Wellness Community or to Gilda’s Club. I don’t want this organization to lose support. It was, after all, a place of solace for Gilda in her last years fighting ovarian cancer.


This morning, I wrote a post about the travesty of changing the name of Gilda’s Clubs across North America to “Cancer Support Community”. The post I wrote was heavily backed up by a number of other news sources and blogs, a quote from the Executive Director of Gilda’s Club in Madison, Wisconsin, the Gilda’s Club Wikipedia page (which has since been updated), and the Gilda’s Club Madison site. I had done my due diligence. It was a small story, but I was concerned enough by it to want to say something.

I wanted to do more than just write about this situation, so I also posted an online petition. I was hoping for a few hundred signatures, to show them that I was serious.

After that, I tweeted a bit on the story, connected to some friends on Facebook, and watched.

Throughout the day, the story started to explode, and the petition gathered signatures at a remarkable rate…I got to over 1,600 in a few hours (at which point I shut it down).

People were incensed, and the story got picked up by the Globe and Mail, Chicago Sun-Times, Global News, and media outlets all over the place.

I emailed the executives at Cancer Support Community, to follow up on my petition and blog post, and to find out why they thought changing Gilda’s Clubs was a good idea (when it so obviously is not). One of the execs immediately phoned me, and we had an engaging conversation.

She told me that every media source she spoke to cited my name. I was absolutely shocked…who am I? Just some idiot with a blog. One of my recent posts was about how to use an escalator. Anyway…

Over the course of the conversation, I agreed to follow up my blog post and shut down my petition. She assured me that she will, in good faith:

–  Correct the inaccuracy online that suggests that individual chapters of Gilda’s Club will be mandated to change their names (they are not, nor were they ever. There is inaccurate info on the on the Madison, WI Gilda’s Club website indicating otherwise). Individual chapters will keep the name “Gilda’s Club” unless a decision is made at chapter level to change it. My understanding is that no more names will be changed, particularly after today

–  Provide me with clarification as to why the Madison, WI chapter has changed their name. I will discuss this further with representatives from the Madison, WI chapter to work towards keeping Gilda in the name over the next few days

–  Keep Gilda in everything they do. She assured me that Gilda is part of their work, top to bottom. I believe her.

She let me know the connection that Gilda had with the Wellness Community, and gave me some history on the organization. Remember, Gilda’s Clubs were started after Gilda’s death…when she was alive, she relied on the good people of the Wellness Community (now partnered with the Cancer Support Community and with Gilda’s Clubs…so they all work together to fight cancer). And she let me know that a number of donors had unfortunately threatened to withdraw their donations to the cause. Guys…please don’t.

She also sent me a statement, which I have included below.

* * *

I want to be crystal clear: I don’t want anybody to stop giving donations to the Wellness Community or to Gilda’s Clubs. I don’t want this organization to lose support. It was, after all, a place of solace for Gilda in her last years fighting ovarian cancer. The last thing I want is to see such a wonderful organization lose funding.

I simply wanted to make a point about how important Gilda’s name and legacy are in this fight, and in our lives today. That she shouldn’t be forgotten.

We in the media (I guess I’m one of them) need to take some responsibility for what we say and do. I stand by what I wrote and what I did, because I still believe that Gilda’s name should never be forgotten or erased. Also, it worked. I know categorically that Gilda’s Clubs from Chicago to Toronto will be keeping their names (and always were, apparently), and if the folks in Madison are at all media savvy, they’ll do the same thing. At the same time, perhaps I was naïve in not realizing that this could lead to financial implications and, ultimately, hurt people who are suffering from cancer, as well as their families. Please understand that was never my intention.

I appreciated the opportunity to speak over the phone with the executive from Cancer Support Community. I know she will do the right thing, as I must now. I urge those of you who are reading this to continue supporting and donating to the work they do in conjunction with Gilda’s Club and the Wellness Community, and I want to thank everyone for stating so definitively how much they still love and remember Gilda Radner.

CSC Statement, unedited:

The Cancer Support Community (CSC) would like to thank those of you who have expressed your interest in this discussion. We are inspired by your passion and the personal stories you have shared.

We feel it is important to correct a significant error noted in the petition. At no time has it been mandated that there be a unilateral change from either Gilda’s Club or The Wellness Community to the Cancer Support Community. The statement indicating this mandate is simply untrue and does not accurately reflect the facts. At no time has it been mandated, nor is it our intention to mandate that any affiliate change its name.

The legacy of Gilda Radner will always be an important part of the past, present and future of our network. As many of you know, when Gilda was diagnosed with cancer, she went to The Wellness Community in California. She noted on page 139 of her book, It’s Always Something, “To this day I have the highest regard for the work of The Wellness Community. I wish there were a thousand more of them.” We are forever grateful that Gilda’s friends and family took up her charge and created Gilda’s Club.

The mission of the Cancer Support Community (CSC) is to ensure that all people impacted by cancer are empowered by knowledge, strengthened by action and sustained by community. In 2009, The Wellness Community and Gilda’s Club joined forces, bringing together more than 50 years of collective experience to provide the highest quality social and emotional support for people impacted by cancer through a network of over 50 licensed affiliates, more than 100 satellite locations and a vibrant online community, touching more than one million people each year.

Backed by evidence that the best cancer care includes social and emotional support, our network offers services free of charge to men, women and children with any type or stage of cancer and to their loved ones. As the largest, professionally-led nonprofit network of cancer support worldwide, we deliver a comprehensive menu of personalized and essential services including support groups, educational workshops, exercise, art and nutrition classes and social activities for the entire family. In 2011, CSC delivered more than $40 million in free services to patients and families. We are proud to advance the innovations that are becoming the standard in complete cancer care. So that no one faces cancer alone.

We invite you to learn more about us and our services by visiting


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About Josh Bowman

Josh Bowman is a professional fundraiser, story-teller, comedian, and blogger. He has worked and consulted in Vancouver, New York, and now Toronto for almost a decade. Josh improvises around Toronto, including regular shows with Opening Night Theatre, and also blogs for the Huffington Post. You can email Josh here.. If you want to know more about Josh, check this post and this post out first.


  1. wellokaythen says:

    The larger issue is that ovarian cancer does not get nearly the attention that it should, in part because breast cancer gets a lion’s share of the attention and focus. So, I can see some benefit in changing the name to something more general. Emphasizing Radner’s name might give the impression that this was some really rare thing that only she had, while using a name like “cancer” or “wellness” reaches out to more people and more resources.

    Breast cancer is far more common than ovarian cancer, but ovarian cancer is far more deadly, and there’s basically no good early detection system like there can be with some kinds of breast cancer. Most women with ovarian cancer don’t know they have it until it’s far advanced. The morbid math of it all is that breast cancer events are so well-attended in part because there are so many (relatively!) survivors of breast cancer, while survivors of ovarian cancer are extremely rare. Relatively few can start a 5K race by announcing they beat ovarian cancer….

  2. She told me that every media source she spoke to cited my name. I was absolutely shocked…who am I? …
    I can imagine you became overwhelmed,
    who knows which one of our writings becomes inadvertently viral. I say inadvertently as often a post for a cosy group of regular reader with its ingroup use of words and lessformal writing style, can be easily misunderstood, misinterpreted by a much wider unprimed audience. Had the writer unknown that the work would reach a much wider circulation, they would have written accordingly(which is not necessarily the same as disingenuously). I wonder how many writers now write every article or comment, with one eye guarding against the overpowering storm of inadvertent virality

    Ive often had sympathy for ordinary people that find themselves at the centre of a social or print/broadcast media storm. We ordinary folk just have to stand there naked, defenceless against the wind. At least celebrities etc, have the insulation of their media teams to help them whether the storm.


  1. […] Josh contacted the Cancer Support Community, and after speaking with an executive, he’s written a post to set the record straight. You can read the full story here. […]

  2. […] Now, after speaking with an executive at the Cancer Support Community, Josh has written a post to set the record straight. You can read the full story here. […]

  3. […] Clubs will be changing their names; it was one specific branch that made the change official. Take a look at this link to read a bit more about this story. Gilda’s Clubs are a fantastic resource for anyone dealing […]

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