Chronicles of Our Journey
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Gilda’s Club Quad Cities was founded when a group of local oncology nurses saw a need for social and emotional support for cancer patients and their families in our area. They approached Rich Horst asking for his help and he gathered a founding board of local community leaders in 1995 and together they began the process to establish a Gilda’s Club in our community.
Gilda’s Club Quad Cities opened its clubhouse doors on November 8, 1998, at the mansion on the hill with the red doors along River Drive in Davenport, Iowa. Gilda’s Club Quad Cities founding Executive Director was Claudia Robinson who led our organization for 18 years when she retired in 2016.
Gilda’s Club Quad Cities made our home at our clubhouse on River Drive until December 2020 when we sold the home and began a journey to be more accessible to cancer patients and their families as well as lower operating costs to be more sustainable, allowing us to serve our community well into the future. We had a bold vision to be located within each hospital system near each of our local cancer centers with locations in both Iowa and Illinois. In February 2021 we opened our first clubhouse in Moline inside UnityPoint Health—Trinity just down the hall from their cancer center. Our new Davenport clubhouse opened the following year in September 2022 at Genesis Health Systems West Campus directly above their cancer center.
Since opening our doors in 1998, Gilda’s Club Quad Cities has served close to 4,500 individuals living with cancer and their loved ones. With locations in Iowa and Illinois we are reaching more people than ever before and are excited for continued growth within our region.
The Wellness Community
Our global network traces its roots to a yellow house in Santa Monica, California, where Harriet and Dr. Harold Benjamin transformed the way our culture faces cancer. After Harriet’s cancer diagnosis in 1972, Dr. Benjamin sought to create a community that would provide social and emotional support to cancer patients and their families and friends — all free of charge. The Wellness Community opened its doors in Santa Monica, CA in 1982 where Dr. Harold and Harriet Benjamin sought to create a safe space where people diagnosed with cancer and their loved ones could talk about their diagnosis and find support and connection. The vision was no one should face cancer alone.
Gilda Radner, the late comedian and original Saturday Night Live cast member, benefited from The Wellness Community after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1986. Joanna Bull was the Executive Director there but also worked as a cancer psychotherapist during Gilda Radner’s illness. After seeking refuge through weekly individual therapy, Joanna encouraged Gilda to attend The Wellness Community to connect with others living with cancer and attend programs. Gilda’s experience there inspired her to call for similar support-focused organizations in other cities.
History of Gilda's Club
Gilda’s Club was named in honor of Emmy award winning actress and original Saturday Night Live cast member, Gilda Radner. At SNL Gilda developed many brilliantly addled characters. Some of her most popular were the crotchety news commentator Emily Litella and Roseanne Roseannadanna, which was the inspiration for the Gilda’s Club logo. After Saturday Night Live, she appeared on Broadway, made over ten movies and appeared on numerous television shows during her career, including “The Muppet Show” in 1978.
On September 18, 1984, Gilda married Gene Wilder. Gene, an accomplished comedic actor in his own right, and Gilda had met each other through friends in 1980. They married and their efforts to have children failed. Gilda had two miscarriages and her health seemed to be failing. In 1986, Gilda was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
After attending The Wellness Community in Southern California, Gilda envisioned places of participation, education, hope and friendship to be made available to men, women, and children with all types of cancer and their families and friends. Although Radner passed away in 1989, her husband, Gene Wilder, and Joanna Bull, along with other friends and family, answered Radner’s call to action. Together, they founded Gilda’s Club and opened its iconic Red Door in New York City in 1995.
Following her own cancer diagnosis, Gilda Radner quipped, “Cancer gave me membership in an elite club I’d rather not belong to.” Today that club is Gilda’s Club. Gilda’s spirit lives on at every Gilda’s Club, where participants join with other “experts” at living with cancer to both give and receive the benefits of love and laughter through the unique Gilda’s Club program.
Our Larger Community
In 2007, the Institute of Medicine released Cancer Care for the Whole Patient: Meeting Psychosocial Health Needs, emphasizing the importance of addressing the social and emotional needs of individuals facing cancer, rather than just their physical needs.
The report underscored what The Wellness Community and Gilda’s Club Worldwide, and its affiliate networks, had been doing for many years and sparked merger discussions between the two organizations to increase efficiencies and serve even more patients. In 2009, The Wellness Community and Gilda’s Club Worldwide became one organization: Cancer Support Community.
Today, we are a global non-profit network of 190 locations, including CSC and Gilda’s Club centers, hospital and clinic partnerships, and satellite locations that deliver more than $50 million in free support and navigation services to patients and families.
In addition, CSC administers a toll-free helpline, 888-793-9355, and produces award-winning educational and digital resources that, together with the locations, reach more than one million people each year.
They also conduct cutting-edge research on the emotional, psychological, and financial journey of cancer patients through our Research and Training Institute and advocate at all levels of government for policies to help individuals whose lives have been disrupted by cancer through their Cancer Policy Institute.