Gilda’s Club Lowell provides emotional support for those dealing with cancer or grief. Tuesday evening of this week, members of Gilda’s Club gathered to celebrate the holiday season. But in addition, friends and family enjoyed each other’s company, had some fun, and didn’t have cancer or grief on their minds for a few hours. An annual gathering has taken place since the Lowell location opened in 2008. Over the years it has grown, and this year the Franciscan Life Process Center opened their doors for the event location.
Volunteer Spotlight: Chris Wenner
Chris Wenner has volunteered at Gilda’s Club Lowell’s clubhouse for over four years. She is on the Warm and Welcome Team as well as the Social Committee. She personally has not had a chapter in life dealing with cancer but, like many, it hit close to her heart. “After I retired, a counselor who also retired, suggested I volunteer at the Gilda Clubhouse in Lowell. This tugged at my heart since I had a sister and brother-in-law who both traveled through the cancer journey.” she says of her decision to volunteer.
Anyone who walks through the clubhouse doors in Lowell is greeted with smiles and welcomed with open arms. Whether you have cancer, are a family member of someone with cancer, or are dealing with grief, Gilda’s Club offers numerous programs and activities to help understand and try to manage the emotional side. Members find a safe place to share stories of success and defeat among those who truly understand.
A Warm and Welcome volunteer is often a person’s first contact at Gilda’s Club. And as much as people try to change the stereotype, first impressions can make a difference. It can be hard for some to take the first step and enter the clubhouse door given the circumstances, but volunteers focus on the importance of making members feel welcome and comfortable during a difficult time.
Gilda’s Club Lowell offers emotional support groups and social gatherings. While emotional support is certainly important, the social aspect should not be ignored and deemed essential by Wenner saying, “However, both individuals and families going through a cancer journey still need to laugh, smile, socialize and have fun even through their adversity.” Social gatherings allow for some down time. It’s a short period where cancer and grief don’t need to be in the forefront. It’s an important aspect for those touched by cancer.
Deck the Halls
The Social Committee typically plans two major events each year. This past summer an ice cream social was a huge success. However, the Christmas party is eagerly awaited by many members. Due to growing membership, the space at the clubhouse location on S. Hudson is too small. The Sisters at the Franciscan Life Process Center opened their doors providing a venue for the event. Volunteers spent the afternoon decorating and setting things up for the party.
The Rudolph themed evening included dinner, piano music played by a Franciscan Life Process Center volunteer and piano student, crafts for kids, a visit from, and photos taken by Bruce Doll with, Santa, a hot chocolate bar, gifts for every kid, and lots of door prizes. “We have about 80-100 members who attend this event and in some way have all been affected by cancer or the death of a loved one. Maybe for just a few hours along with family and friends they can sit back and actually enjoy themselves.” says Wenner. The event was well attended and the snow for the week held out, leaving for an easy commute to the venue.
There were smiles. There was laughter. There was happiness. Thanks to the many volunteers who planned, organized, and worked the event the social gathering was a success. Noto’s Old World Italian Dining supplied the evening’s meal along with some Lowell Area School faculty members. Wenner extends her gratitude to everyone involved with making the night special for those who attended.
A Check from Pink Arrow
In the spirit of giving, Teresa Beachum, representing Pink Arrow Pride, spoke for a few moments at the start of the event. She talked about the Lowell community and how it gives so much. This year through funds raised by Pink Arrow, a check in the amount of $72,000 was given to Gilda’s Club Lowell to use for the programs they offer. An additional $46,000 will be given to Lowell Community Wellness, which offers financial gifts to those dealing with cancer. This year over 90 people have received a monetary gift, which is the largest single year of recipients to date. And finally, $8,500 was put toward the Lowell Community Wellness Education Foundation, Dr. Gerard Scholarship, and Kathy Talus Scholarship.
Gilda’s Club Lowell held their annual holiday gathering. More than 100 members enjoyed a few hours of merriment, taking a break from thoughts of cancer and grief. Gilda’s Club recognizes the importance of programs needed to deal with emotional aspects of cancer and grief. But a social aspect is important as well.
Thanks to the Lowell community and Pink Arrow, the facility is able to offer a weekly free dinner for socializing and programs for cancer and grief. All who would benefit from the services Gilda’s Club Lowell provide are encouraged to stop by any Tuesday afternoon or evening for information. You’ll be welcomed with open arms and smiles.
Gilda’s Club Lowell is located at 314 S Hudson St. They are open on Tuesdays from 12:30pm – 7:30pm. During the afternoon there are often workshops and lectures. Dinner is served from 5:30pm – 6:00pm followed by evening groups 6:00pm – 7:30pm. Children are welcome to attend. Free childcare is provided. More information about their programs can be found on their website.