GildaFest celebrates a decade of helping in South Jersey

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Gilda's Club, New Road in Linwood will host GildaFest from 5-8 p.m. Friday, May 17. Gilda's Club, New Road in Linwood will host GildaFest from 5-8 p.m. Friday, May 17

LINWOOD—When Gilda’s Club opened its doors in Atlantic City there was a plan and a mission. Fast forward a decade and while the locations have changed the mission to help, inform, educate and serve those people touched by cancer has been the constant.

This Friday they will celebrate that decade with GildaFest at their 700 New Road Linwood location.

“We have been very fortunate; with support from Wawa we were able to purchase this facility, it’s a great location and allows us the space to accommodate all of our members who are coming here for support,” said Program Director Erin McAllister.

She said typically about 500-600 people will attend meetings, support groups or one of the sessions offered. Asked who is a typical Gilda’s Club member McAllister said, “Our members can be anyone. We have a large group of men that come every week, we have kids that attend Noogieland, we have women, teens, tweens, survivors, caregivers; we have all ages of people who come to Gilda’s because they have been touched by cancer in their life in some way.”

McAllister explained Gilda’s Club needs to continue to make connections and relationships with doctors and oncologists in the area. Often the doctor will recommend that a patient visit Gilda’s Club to aid in the support and psychosocial needs of the patient beyond the medical. Weekly new member meetings give an overview of what Gilda’s has to offer and a new member can choose what they feel might best fit their needs and attend as many or as few sessions as they want.

“Some people will stop in right after their diagnosis; others don’t come until the end. Some are coming to better understand their ‘new normal’ and dealing with their body, their emotions and learn to live with the diagnosis. They learn about how to deal with the disease long term and what happens if they have to stop working or if they are going to try to continue to work and dealing with pain and exhaustion. Some are coming to grips with the fact that they do not have the same abilities they might have had previously,” said McAllister.

Some members are afraid; what if the disease comes back and with support groups there are people who will help them to understand and to keep going. Some members will come just for a yoga class or to learn techniques for relaxing. “The doctors take care of the medical needs of the patient and they can turn to us for the needs beyond that for the patient and for their family members or caregivers.
McAllister explained that all of the groups at Gilda’s Club are run by licensed professional counselors

All of the programs at Gilda’s are free, there is no charge for anything but McAllister countered; “Free is expensive so we have to raise every penny and we need the community to help support us as well.” Gilda’s has partnered with the Cancer Support Community and with nearly 100 locations nationwide they are the largest provider of psychosocial support.  

Friday evening Gilda’s Club is celebrating that decade-long journey that has brought the organization where it is today with GildaFest. McAllister said they are hoping that everyone who has had a part in Gilda’s whether as a member or a volunteer, a benefactor or a neighbor will stop by and enjoy some food and music and have a chance to meet some of the “dazzlers of the decade” who McAllister said are people who have had a hand in Gilda’s Club of South Jersey success.

A special part of the celebration is a visit from Joanna Bull, the founder of the original Gilda’s Club along with Gene Wilder. Bull was Gilda Radner’s psychotherapist.
For more information on GildaFest visit or call (609) 926 2699.

If you go;
5-8 p.m. Friday May 17 in the Linwood Clubhouse
700 New Road in Linwood

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