Gilda's Club chapter in Wis. sticks with name

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 23, 2013 at 4:32 pm •  Published: January 23, 2013
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Stenz, leader of the Madison chapter, said the potential loss of donations "was not as much of a factor in our decision to retain the name." She said it was driven more by feedback from its board, Gilda's Club members and people in the community.

Stenz and Harris said the goal of the name change was always about making clear the group's mission, not to remove Radner's memory.

"We were just talking about changing the name that we went by legally," Harris said. While Radner would have still been a part of the organization, "in the end, they want to see Gilda's name out front," he said.

Paintings and drawings of Radner line the walls of the Madison-area chapter, which is located in the suburb of Middleton. One depicts her on top of Madison's state Capitol. Another imagines her sitting along the shores of Lake Mendota on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.

The meeting rooms are named after her "Saturday Night Live" characters, including New York-street smart reporter Roseanne Roseannadana; speech-impeded talk show host Baba Wawa, a parody of Barbara Walters; and out-of-sync editorialist Emily Litella who would say, "Never mind," after being told of her confusion.

Radner was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1986. She sought support from The Wellness Community in California, and in 1991, her friends and family started Gilda's Club on the East Coast to honor her legacy. The name was inspired by something Radner said after her diagnosis: "Having cancer gave me membership in an elite club I'd rather not belong to."

Gilda's Club Worldwide merged with The Wellness Community in 2009, and the joint headquarters in Washington changed its name to the Cancer Support Community. Local chapters were given the choice of keeping their names or changing it. Of the 53 chapters worldwide, 23 are known as Gilda's Club.

Together, the chapters deliver $40 million a year in free care to about 1 million cancer patients and their families, said Linda House, executive vice president of the national Cancer Support Community. The Madison chapter has about 2,200 members.

Stenz said she hoped the Madison community that Gilda's Club serves will embrace its decision to keep the name.

As far as lessons learned from the experience, Harris had a simple takeaway: "We're not changing our name again."