As you walk along bustling West Houston Street between Varick and 6th Avenue, you will come upon a brick building with a bright red door and large inviting bay window. This four story building became the home of the original Gilda’s Club at its inception in 1995. 37,000 New Yorkers are diagnosed with cancer each year. Many of them walk through the signature red door that is now the trademark of Gilda’s Clubs throughout the World.
It all started with Gilda Radner, the comedian and cast member of Saturday Night Live when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1986. During the years that followed, she learned to live with cancer through the help of a support community she joined in California and it was her wish that others facing this disease could find the emotional and social support she found. Following her death in 1989, Gilda’s husband Gene Wilder, and her cancer psychotherapist Joanna Bull acted on Gilda’s wish. In 1995 they opened the first Gilda’s Club at 195 West Houston Street in New York City.
Members from age 4 to 12 can ‘Get Their Sparkle On’ in Noogiland – one of the many wonderful member rooms. Redecorated by volunteers quarterly to fit the seasons, Summer was lovingly done by volunteers from Google and include a Tree of Hearts where the kids can write their experiences. Kids play a big part in decorating this room, with many of their wonderful paintings on display on the walls and ceiling tiles. During the Summer, Gilda’s Club also offers a free program appropriately named Camp Sparkle.
Throughout the building there are many cozy meeting rooms – some with overstuffed couches and chairs, fish tanks and televisions – most are filled with members every evening for workshops, lectures and social activities.
Gilda’s Club New York City receives some support from their immediate community and in fact, West Houston Street between Varick Street and 6th Avenue was recently renamed Gilda Radner Way.