Gilda's Club Branches Change Name To Cancer Support Community, Spark Backlash

Actress Gilda Radner.  (Photo by Ann Clifford/DMI/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)
Actress Gilda Radner. (Photo by Ann Clifford/DMI/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

Gilda's Club, a non-profit cancer support network named in honor of the late "Saturday Night Live" comedian Gilda Radner, recently announced that several of its branches will undergo a name change to be called the Cancer Support Community.

The foremost of these branches, the Madison, Wis. affiliate of Gilda's Club, explained that the name change was because "we are seeing younger and younger adults who are dealing with a cancer diagnosis" for whom the name Gilda Radner bears no significance.

Some affiliates have already made the change, although the national organization has not mandated that every affiliate must do so.

The decision to eliminate the name of Gilda Rander, who died of ovarian cancer in 1989, has irked many. The Facebook pages of Gilda's Club branches have become forums for nearly unanimous backlash over the name change.

"Sad. I don't know who Betty Ford was, but I know what her clinic does!" said one user on the Madison branch's page.

Said another, "Interesting that you are choosing to change the name of your organization, and further the decline of Gilda's memory in the public eye, rather than choosing to educate your members and outreach of her humor and body of work. I'd be happy to purchase an SNL DVD set and donate it to support cherishing Gilda's memory."

The backlash soon took hold in the national media. On Wednesday, The Chicago Sun-Times' Richard Roeper weighed in with an opinion piece entitled "Gilda’s Club: The Name on the Door Matters."

"Having co-hosted an annual Gilda’s Club fundraiser in Chicago on a number of occasions, yes, I’ve had to explain the name and the legacy of Gilda Radner more than a few times," Roeper wrote. "So what? It’s an opportunity to tell people about the wonderful characters Radner created for 'Saturday Night Live,' and the comedic trail she helped blaze for brilliant minds such as Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and Julia Louis-Dreyfus."

But the organization defended its decision on Facebook, claiming that as the center and its breadth of service expands, it's only natural to rechristen it with a more straightforward name.

However, one Gilda's Club branch will not be adopting the new banner: Chicago, where Radner launched her comedy career as a member of the Second City comedy troupe. "Gilda’s Club Chicago will remain Gilda’s Club Chicago in honor of the courageous way Gilda, and all of our members, live with cancer," said LauraJane Hyde, the CEO of Gilda’s Club Chicago.

What do you think? Should they change the name to reflect a broader mission, or keep the name as is?

UPDATE: A previous version of this article implied that the name change applied to all branches of Gilda's Club.



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