By Greg Gilman
LOS ANGELES (TheWrap.com) - Gilda Radner's name will remain in the title of a Gilda's Club Madison, the Wisconsin branch of the worldwide Cancer Support Community announced on Wednesday.
"We are happy and humbled to announce that our name will continue to be Gilda's Club," the organization's executive director, Lannia Stenz, said in a statement. "Gilda Radner's iconic image will continue to help us welcome and support people affected by cancer."
Although the cancer support group never intended to remove the "Saturday Night Live" alum's likeness from their walls or spirit from their mission, board members voted last November to rename Gilda's Club Madison to Cancer Support Community Southwest Wisconsin. However, many of the organization's members, Radner's fans and her husband, Gene Wilder, weren't too happy about the decision.
"As her husband I could have told that ‘I think it would hurt Gilda's feelings terribly if she were watching what you're doing and that there's no reason to hurt her or those who love her," Wilder told Web2Carz after being informed of the news last December. "There are millions of people who still love her."
According to Stenz, "many passionate voices" agreed.
"We heard a wide variety of feedback from members, community and folks outside our community," Stenz told TheWrap. "And the feedback was overwhelmingly asking us to keep the name."
"We heard from our members that the Gilda's Club name offered a great deal of warmth and welcomeness. That has made a difference to our members," she continued. "Gilda's story and her legacy is something that resonates with people living with cancer that walk through our door."
Radner was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1986 before dying from the disease in 1989. Through her experience at a Wellness Community in California, the comedian and actress understood the importance of emotional support during treatment.
"Gilda knew, and research has shown, that when people living with a cancer diagnosis receive the emotional support they need, they tend to have better treatment outcomes and an improved quality of life," Stenz explained.
It was for that reason that Wilder teamed up with Joanna Bull, Radner's psychotherapist, to launch Gilda's Club in 1995, which later merged with the Wellness Community in 2009 to create a global support network known as the Cancer Support Community.
The organization's name was derived from one of Radner's most famous quotes: "Having cancer gave me membership in an elite club I'd rather not belong to."
Thanks to the 53 Cancer Support Community branches around the world - 23 of which are known as Gilda's Club - over one million cancer patients who would rather not belong to the elite club have had access to an estimated $40 million a year in free care.