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Local organization offers support for families struck by cancer

Gilda's Club Grand Rapids is a safe place for grieving cancer patients, their families and survivors.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A farmhouse sits just west of downtown Grand Rapids. Gilda's Club Grand Rapids has been there for nearly 20 years, and it continues to be a safe place for patients and survivors of cancer.  

Clifford Koop is a cancer survivor. He's been coming to therapy sessions at Gilda's Club for years.

“I started coming here in May of 2017 after I recovered from my surgery,” says Kopp. “You learn a lot from others even though the cancers are completely different, you can associate and bond with others pretty easily.”

Clifford was diagnosed in 2013 with a gastro-intestinal stromal tumor. After an intense digestive surgery, and rounds of chemotherapy he says he was in constant pain. And he and his wife were in need of support. Then, they found Gilda's Club Grand Rapids.

“After a few sessions of talking with people, I learned what it was. Made some amazing friendships a lot of laughter, a lot of tears,” says Kopp. “We just learned how to become an advocate for ourselves and fight for what we need to become healthier.”

Clifford is now a cancer survivor, but he continues to find his voice through therapy sessions at Gilda's. Through Gilda's he says he's found friendships and bonds that only families touched by cancer can understand. 

“I come because I like to meet new cancer survivors, to show then that ‘hey, your cancer may be terrible but this is what I’ve been through. Sometimes it’s just a little insight we share with each other of it’s okay to be sad or it’s okay to not understand. The biggest thing with a lot of new patients is that they don’t know what to ask, because they don’t know," Kopp says. "At the end of the day it provides them with a little hope no matter how serious it is and it provides them with a lot of hope.”

Gilda's Club Grand Rapids supports the community in a number of different ways. According to a 2019 community impact report:
The clubhouse had over 21,500 visits in 2019.
Over 1,300 members attended an educational workshop in 2019.
Gilda's Club offers 503 youth and family programs each year.
And 1,073 adult cancer and grief support groups a year.
In 2019, the served 355 evening meals – feeding between 40 and 150 members per meal.
Nearly 223 support groups and activities take place each month.
And 40 percent of their membership is made up of men and children.

Gilda's Club is 100 percent privately funded. If you would like to support Gilda's Club, here are 10 way that you can help:

  1. Make a donation. Gilda's Club relies on the gifts of individuals and community organizations to keep our program free. 
  2. Involve your workplace. Consider becoming a Pillar Partner, sponsoring one of Gild'a Club events or LaughFest or hosting a fundraiser in your office like a casual jeans day. 
  3. Organize a fundraiser. Have a great fundraising idea or want to turn an activity you love into a fundraising event that benefits Gilda's Club?
  4. Volunteer. Volunteers are the core of how we do what we do at Gilda's Club and are a critical to our ability to offer our program free of charge to our members.
  5. Support a Gilda's Club event. Sponsor or attend one of our events throughout the year including Signature Event, Gilda's Club Golf Open, West Side Walk or Gilda's Night of Gratitude.
  6. Participate in LaughFest. Participate in LaughFest by purchasing a High 5 button or "yellowing up" your place of work.
  7. Double your gift. Matching gifts are often provided by employers. Check to see if your gift can have double the impact. 
  8. Follow us on social media. Like and share our content to help us spread awareness of our programs, services and events.
  9. Join our Legacy Society. Put plans in place to include Gilda's Club in your estate, ensuring the financial future of emotional health.
  10. Form a West Side Walk Team. Gather your friends, co-workers and others in your life to rally around Gilda's Club and our fall fundraising walk. 

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