Gilda's Club opens first clubhouse in the Twin Cities

MINNETONKA, Minn. - There's a new club in town and it has a very important mission. It's called Gilda's Club and it serves cancer patients and those who love them.

When Nancy Franczyk's younger brother, Richard Barton, was diagnosed with colon cancer, he found support at a Gilda's Club in New York.

"It truly has been a godsend for my family," Franczyk said. "So when I found out they were going to have one here, this was my chance to pay it forward."

Franscyk has volunteered to help open the new Gilda's Club Twin Cities in Minnetonka.

Named after Saturday Night Live comedian Gilda Radner, who died of ovarian cancer, this new clubhouse is a place where cancer patients, family and friends can de-stress in the mind body studio, take a nutrition class in the kitchen and meet with others for emotional and social support.

There's also a teen room and a room for younger children called Noogieland, named after the knuckle to noggin "noogies" that Radner and Bill Murray made famous in an SNL skit.

There are drums to pound, books to read, jokes to tell and hear. Those who come to Gilda's Club walk through its signature red door into a club of what members call, "a community of healing, hope and humor."

Jenni Lilledahl helped co-found the new Twin Cities location after losing her sister, Teri Svare, to cancer. It took eight years, nearly $4 million in donations and thousands of hours of volunteer time.

"We're providing a safe container, a safe environment and warm and welcoming environment, where people can build relationships and community with other people going through the same thing," said Lilledahl.

Not only is Gilda's Club an oasis for those touched by cancer, all of the services are free.

"With the stress of cancer, having any sort of barrier to getting help is not helpful," Lilledahl explained.

Gilda's Club is the home away from home she wishes her family had.

"I really hope people just come see it," she said.

Gilda's Club is having its ribbon cutting and open house on Wednesday from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Anyone who would like to make a donation or who knows someone who could benefit from Gilda's Club's services, click here.


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