As the largest professionally led nonprofit network of cancer support worldwide, the Cancer Support Community (CSC) is dedicated to ensuring that all people impacted by cancer are empowered by knowledge, strengthened by action, and sustained by community. This global network of 175 locations, including CSC and Gilda's Club centers, health-care partnerships, and satellite locations that deliver more than $50 million in free support services to patients and families. In addition, CSC administers a toll-free helpline and produces award-winning educational resources that reach more than one million people each year. Formed in 2009 by the merger of The Wellness Community and Gilda’s Club, CSC also conducts cutting-edge research on the emotional, psychological, and financial journey of cancer patients. In addition, CSC advocates at all levels of government for policies to help individuals whose lives have been disrupted by cancer. In January 2018, CSC welcomed Denver-based nonprofit MyLifeLine, a digital community that includes more than 30,000 patients, caregivers, and their supporters that will enable CSC to scale its digital services in an innovative, groundbreaking way.
In 1982, Harriet and Dr. Harold Benjamin transformed the way our culture faces cancer. After Harriet’s diagnosis with cancer in 1972, Dr. Benjamin sought to create a community that would provide social and emotional support not only to cancer patients, but also to families, friends, and caregivers—all free of charge. The Benjamins strongly encouraged psychosocial care because they believed in a strong correlation between emotional and physical well-being. Thus, the first walk-in community of its kind, The Wellness Community (TWC), was founded in Santa Monica, CA as a place for those impacted by cancer to receive support.
One of the biggest advocates of TWC was late comedian and “SNL” cast member Gilda Radner. When diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1986, Radner sought support from TWC. She called for similar support-focused organizations to be available not only on the West coast, but everywhere. Unfortunately in 1989, Gilda passed away.
In honor of Gilda’s legacy, her husband Gene Wilder, and Joanna Bull, along with friends and family, founded Gilda’s Club in 1991. The first local Affiliate organization, Gilda’s Club New York City (GCNYC), opened its iconic Red Door in 1995. Since then, additional locations have opened worldwide, incorporating larger cities (Chicago, Detroit, Montreal, Toronto), smaller cities (Fort Lauderdale, Quad Cities, Hackensack, Rochester) and locations in between (Nashville, Grand Rapids, White Plains).
In 2007, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released Cancer Care for the Whole Patient: Meeting Psychosocial Health Needs, a groundbreaking report on the importance of addressing the social and emotional needs of individuals facing cancer, rather than just their physical needs—an idea The Wellness Community and Gilda’s Club Worldwide had both been implementing for many years. This eventually sparked merger discussions between the two organizations, which aimed to increase operating efficiency and reduce overall costs in order to provide greater resources and influence. In 2009, The Wellness Community and Gilda’s Club Worldwide merged, becoming a united organization under the name Cancer Support Community. As a result of this union, the Cancer Support Community is now one of the largest providers of cancer support worldwide, with Gilda’s Club and Cancer Support Community Affiliate locations across the country. With nearly double the footprint, CSC has increased its capacity to reach even more people touched by cancer.
Cancer Support Community has become one of the leading organizations in cancer support – opening various affiliate organizations throughout the country and the world. CSC has remained dedicated to its mission of providing emotional support and psychosocial care for individuals impacted by cancer, including their families and friends. The organization has developed the Cancer Support Helpline, the Cancer Experience Registry and greatly expanded the Frankly Speaking About Cancer educational materials and radio shows. Further, CSC established the Research & Training Institute and the Cancer Policy Institute, and piloted an inaugural hospital-integrated model. Through all of these developments, CSC has worked to further expand its services so that “no one faces cancer alone”.