| Oct 30, 2008

Oct 30/08 - Gilda's Club Halloween Fundraiser

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Feature Article - October 30, 2008 Sydenham ladies host Halloween fundraiser for Gilda’s ClubBy Julie Druker

The Sydenham women behind the "Gilda Club" Halloween fundraiser: Cindy Mills, Joanne Franke, Anita Alton and Etta CerisanoFour local Sydenham women came together and threw their 2nd annual Halloween party fundraiser at the Sydenham Legion on Saturday night to raise funds to establish a “Gilda’s Club” of South Eastern Ontario in Kingston.

These non-profit and non-residential clubs have been established internationally and are named for the renowned comedian and actress Gilda Radner, of Saturday Night Live fame, who succumbed to ovarian cancer in 1989.

There are currently 23 Gilda’s Clubs throughout the United States and Canada and seven more are in the developmental stages at this time. In Ontario, there is a club in Toronto and one in Barrie.

Each Gilda’s Club offers free membership to people, friends and families who have been affected by cancer, and various types of emotional support and social programs.

Joanne Franke is the founding board president of Gilda’s Club of South Eastern Ontario and Cindy Mills is the vice president. Both women are Sydenham residents.

The two women launched the project in November of 2005 and have spent the last two years putting in place the necessary groundwork to establish the facility in Kingston’s downtown core, close to the KGH Cancer Clinic. To date they have received affiliate status from Gilda’s Club Worldwide, have become incorporated and will receive charitable status within the next week or two.

Currently they are in the process of developing a capital campaign to raise $3.2 million in gift donations to make the Gilda’s Club of Eastern Ontario a reality.

For both women it is an obvious labour of love. Joanne recalls what initiated her involvement in the project. “I had been thinking about it for 6 months prior to starting off when I was talking to some people that I knew who were living with cancer. It was then when I decided to move ahead with the project.”

The board currently consists of six members and will grow to 12. Franke said, “Something of this size has amazed me, especially how much groundwork is involved.“

She added, “We’re now starting to initiate an outreach program to the outlying areas, and because the cancer centre is located in Kingston, our thinking now is to establish a name for ourselves in the Kingston and surrounding area and then to move out from there.”

Joanne and Cindy have been helped in their efforts by Etta Cerisano and Anita Alton, also of Sydenham, who organized the Halloween fundraiser. Both of them have been affected personally by cancer in one form or another.

The $20 admission fee for the Halloween party included all night dancing to the DJ music of Dexter Music of Kingston, a free midnight chili dinner donated by volunteers, door prizes, karaoke and a cash bar. Local businesses generously donated items to be raffled off during the evening.

The four ladies, decked out in costumes themselves, greeted party goers that included: all of the Shrek characters, a “Love Guru”, Betty Boop, a ghoul with glowing teeth, a red eyed grim reaper and a bag of jellybeans.

The room echoed with great dance tunes, lots of laughter and the floor shook under the weight of the many Halloween revelers, all out to bust a move.

Joanne spoke about the Halloween event as a great way to draw the community together, raise awareness of the cause and to raise funds as well.

Joanne stressed that the Gilda’s Clubs are all about socializing, and offering social and emotional support and this is the exact kind of event that could happen at a Gilda’s Club, minus the cash bar of course.

Etta and Anita are hoping to make the party an annual Sydenham event and by the looks of the crowd and the action on the dance floor it would seem that an annual Halloween costume party in the name of Gilda could and should only get bigger and better every year.

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