Why Gilda’s Club Matters – And What I Want You To Do About It

Gilda Radner - File / Photo: AP

Gilda was universally loved. She was known as a warm and caring person, and her early death from ovarian cancer in 1989 was shocking and terribly sad.


As of November, 2012 and over the next year, Gilda’s Clubs across North America will be rebranded to become part of a larger organization named “Cancer Support Community”. This decision was brought to my attention by a wonderfully talented comedian and improviser in Chicago, and it is something I take particular issue with (my mom knew Gilda Radner in Toronto, and she is a huge influence on many of the comedians I know).

The reason for the rebrand, according to Lania Syren Stenz (Executive Director, Gilda’s Club Madison), is:

One of the realizations we had this year is that our college students were born after Gilda Radner passed, as we are seeing younger and younger adults who are dealing with a cancer diagnosis.
I vehemently disagree with this logic. To paraphrase some of the comments I’ve seen online, this would be like changing the names of: The Terry Fox Foundation, The David Suzuki Foundation, The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, or The Walt Whitman Bridge. Or, how about Ford Motors? Many people don’t know who Henry Ford is. Let’s change the name!
Gilda Radner was many things to many people. She was a groundbreaking and incredibly gifted comedian, performer, and story-teller. Her characters were brilliant and hilarious. Gilda was universally loved. She was known as a warm and caring person, and her early death from ovarian cancer in 1989 was shocking and terribly sad.
Gilda was outspoken about her cancer diagnosis, and it was her work (along with the work of Joanna Bull, Gilda Radner’s cancer psychotherapist, Radner’s former husband, Gene Wilder, and friend and broadcaster Joel Siegel) that started Gilda’s Club. To quote Gilda, cancer was a “membership to an elite club I’d rather not belong to.”
There are now 22 chapters of Gilda’s Clubs across North America which provide support and comfort to people fighting cancer. I have attended a number of fundraisers run by Second City Toronto, the Magnet Theatre in New York, and various other comedic organizations to raise money for Gilda’s Club.
I want Gilda’s Club to succeed and grow. I want people who are affected by cancer to find the resources and support they need. If there needs to be clarification on the work the organization does, may I suggest: “Gilda’s Club: A Place for People with Cancer” or “Gilda’s Club: Cancer Support Community.”
This may seem like a small issue. Just a name change. But for many of us, Gilda’s legacy is a vital part of the fight against cancer. Her memory is what has led to so much of this good work being done. Her legacy lives on through a new generation of comedians and performers. Gilda Radner mustn’t be forgotten.
For those who wish to do more, I’ve created a petition. Please sign and share:
Photo courtesy of Associated Press.
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. Keith Roper says:

    And yes I agree with your assessment re Gilda and name-changing. I’ve signed the petition. Long live Gilda’s memory!

  2. Keith Roper says:

    What is the name of the painting at the top of the screen, the backround to the title? the artist?


  1. […] morning, I wrote a post about the travesty of changing the name of Gilda’s Clubs across North America to “Cancer […]

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