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Beyond treatment, cancer patients, families need safe haven — and future Gilda's Club still needs help

Gilda's Club
gildasclubtwincities.org
Gilda's Club Twin Cities will be a cancer support community for people whose lives have been touched by cancer – men, women, teens, and children, and their families and friends – at any stage of the cancer experience.

As a young real-estate professional just starting my career, I didn’t even think about cancer. During a routine checkup I mentioned to my doctor that my mother had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. He said, “Just a moment,” and stepped out of the room.

I was surprised when he came back in with his overcoat on. “Come on, let’s go,” he said. “Where?” I asked. 

“We’re going across the street so you can have a baseline mammogram,” he replied.

The test that day revealed that I, too, had breast cancer with positive lymph-node involvement. I was just 33 years old. On Dec. 23, 1988, I had a first surgery and a second surgery the following month. I went through 36 radiation treatments and chemotherapy.

No place to get support

While I was being treated beautifully from a medical standpoint, there wasn’t a place where I could talk about what it felt like to have cancer as a young woman; a safe haven where I could share my feelings with others in a nonclinical, healing and home-like environment.

Today, as a real-estate investment executive at United Properties, I am not only a 24-year cancer survivor, but I am volunteering to help build a place that will provide social, emotional and psychological support for Twin Cities residents living with cancer and their families: Gilda’s Club Twin Cities (GCTC).

Named in honor of the famed late comedian Gilda Radner, GCTC will be a cancer support community for people whose lives have been touched by cancer – men, women, teens, and children, and their families and friends – at any stage of the cancer experience.

The first in the Twin Cities

Radner once famously said that cancer presented the opportunity to join a club that no one wanted to belong to; hence the name “Gilda’s Club.” There are 57 such clubhouses across the U.S.; this will be the first of its kind in the Twin Cities.

Over the past two years, GCTC has raised $2.0 million against a total capital campaign goal of $3.8 million to open its famed red doors.  

As the chair of the clubhouse committee, charged with delivering the space for the future clubhouse, I have been joined by other industry professionals who are equally committed to the project – and have contributed pro bono services to it. My colleague Steve Brown at Cushman & Wakefield/NorthMarq, found the building that will house GCTC at 10560 Wayzata Boulevard, and then donated his commission to the capital campaign; and my colleague Bob Jossart of RJM Construction has provided pro bono pre-construction planning.

But it isn’t just sister companies of United Properties that have been involved – it’s the entire real-estate community. Rick Sutton of NELSON is providing architectural services; Laura Bischoff of Metropolis Design Group, Christine Frisk of InUnison Design and Darcy Hield and Kathy Young of bdh + young are providing design services; Mary Taylor of Lindquist & Vennum provided legal services; Barb Chirinos of Stuart Title helped with the closing and Patty Gnetz of US Bank provided financing expertise. Many local vendors will be donating materials such as wall tile and flooring.

Funds, materials, furnishings still needed

More help is urgently needed, including additional financial contributions, donated construction materials and room furnishings. I know those donations will come through, because the community support that we’ve seen so far for this facility is nothing short of a miracle. The real-estate and development community in the Twin Cities has been amazingly generous as well – a wonderful example of the spirit of giving that this season demands.

There wasn’t a place like Gilda’s Club 24 years ago, and fast forward 24 years there still is not one. My family could have used a place like Gilda’s Club, since it provides an essential element in any comprehensive cancer-support program.

I consider myself a walking miracle. My doctor’s wise action so many years ago literally saved my life. Yet I became a member of Gilda’s Club in 1988, and I’m still a member. That’s why I’m doing all I can to make sure the clubhouse opens its red doors next year.

For more information, visit www.gildasclubtwincities.org

Eva Stevens is executive vice president of Asset Management at United Properties.

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