Comedienne Gilda Radner believed in the power of laughter to bring people together and to heal. Today her legacy lives on through Gilda's Club Worldwide, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing emotional and social support to anyone living with cancer, as an essential part of their medical care.
Starting on June 22nd, Gilda's Club will be celebrating Radner's birthday with Laughter for Life Week, a series of activities and special events to promote the importance of social and emotional support for everyone living with cancer. Radner, who died of ovarian cancer at the age of 42, would have turned 62 on June 28.
"Gilda's Club develops communities of people who give to each other what's needed in cancer support. We do it through activities and warm and welcoming clubhouses," said Joan Licrusi, Gilda's Club senior vice president for strategic growth.
From karaoke nights and yoga classes, to pain management counseling and support groups, each of the club's workshops, lectures and social events seeks to spread laughter and hope, and are all completely free.
"It's our philosophy — that you cannot charge for what people give to each other heart to heart, and that's the essence of what we do," said Licursi.
A critical part of the club's mission is to reach out not only those diagnosed with cancer, but also their family members and friends.
"The focus of Gilda's Club is now children, teens and families, to assure that those who may be indirectly impacted by the cancer experience also are considered as part of the whole continuum when cancer is in the family," she said.
At each of their 22 clubhouses in cities across North America there is even a special "Noogieland" zone where kids can kick back.
Laughter for Life Week activities include Kids' Comedy Improv nights, featuring Cherub Improv, and Gilda's Birthday Bashes at Gilda's Club headquarters and three area clubhouses in New York City, White Plains, N.Y., and Hackensack, NJ.
In addition several Laughter for Life Week events will be open to the public. On Sunday, June 22, Gilda's Club heads to the New York Liberty's WNBA game against the Phoenix Mercury in New York. A portion of ticket sales will be donated to Gilda's Club. Click here to find out more.
On Tuesday June 24, Gilda's Club Worldwide Young Leadership Council hosts a benefit event at New York's Gotham Comedy Club. Comics from the "Late Show with David Letterman," "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," "Late Night with Conan O'Brien," "Saturday Night Live" and "VH1's Best Week Ever" are all scheduled to perform. Click here to find out more.
Gilda's Club was founded in Radner's memory by her husband, actor Gene Wilder, along with movie critic Joel Siegel and cancer psychotherapist Joanna Bull, who worked with Radner during her illness.
"Gilda's Clubs are an invaluable resource for cancer patients and their families," said Dr. Edgar Staren, M.D., Ph.D., senior vice president and chief medical officer for Cancer Treatment Centers of America, the lead sponsor of the week.
"The 'Laughter for Life Week' reflects what cancer patients value most: hope and the importance of healing the body, mind and spirit. We are honored to be supporting Gilda's Clubs and their mission to help cancer patients and their families live long, high quality lives," Staren said.
For more information about individual clubhouse activities, please visit: