Archive for Family

Gilda’s Club – Kansas City


Gilda’s Club is named in honor of comedian Gilda Radner who was best known for her work on NBC’s Saturday Night Live. When describing the experience she had at a Los Angeles cancer support center, Gilda dreamed that such places could be made available for people living with cancer and their friends and families everywhere. Gilda died from ovarian cancer in 1989. Today, her spirit lives on in every Gilda’s Club.

Founded by Joanna Bull, Gilda’s cancer psychotherapist and Gilda’s husband, Gene Wilder, along with Joel Siegel and other friends of Gilda Radner, the first Gilda’s Club opened its signature red door in New York City in 1995. Since that time, 22 additional clubhouses have opened.  Many members attest to the fact that Gilda’s Club has helped change their lives by restoring control and enabling them to plan their own emotional and social support, thus strengthening and enriching the entire family.

Why Gilda’s Club Kansas City?

It’s the goal of the Founding Board of Gilda’s Club Kansas City to create a warm, welcoming place so that the people of the Kansas City area will never have to face cancer alone. The Founding Board believes that the establishment of a Gilda’s Club Kansas City clubhouse that is free of charge is an investment in the quality of life for the region.

  • Cancer is the leading cause of death in Missouri, with approximately 30,000 new diagnoses each year.
  • Three out of every four people will be touched by cancer in their lifetime.
  • In 2006 over 9,000 individuals were diagnosed with cancer in the Kansas City metro area. (source: American Cancer Society, Inc. Cancer Facts and Figures 2006)

Gilda’s Club Kansas City fills a gap in the Kansas City cancer community, ensuring that those touched by cancer get free, immediate and ongoing access to emotional and social support.

Gilda’s Club Kansas City is a collaborative organization working side by side with the whole cancer community, not just select organizations or hospitals. It’s time for Kansas City a health care entrepreneur and leader to offer this program that many other communities already offer.

Gilda’s Club Kansas City benefits from its affiliation with well-organized central organization (Gilda’s Club Worldwide) learning best practices from the more than 20 existing clubhouses and 8 provisional clubhouses, including Kansas City are working to open our doors

Today, a number of resources exist in our Kansas City community for people living with cancer. These include hospital and clinic support groups, a variety of patient classes and temporary housing. However, support groups are generally specialized, serving only people living with cancer or specific patient groups, often based on a type of cancer. Classes are sporadic. And few, if any, services address social and emotional needs of people living with cancer on an ongoing basis. Nearly all such classes and support groups leave out key participants in the cancer experience, namely family members and friends. Finally, few programs are offered on a consistent and ongoing basis for teens and children.

What Makes Gilda’s Club Unique?

  • Gilda’s Club gives people a place to learn how to live with cancer. More than just offering support groups, Gilda’s Club is a place to connect, learn and socialize.
  • Gilda’s Club offers a home-like environment, free from any formal medical affiliation. Rather than attend support groups in medical facilities, club members and family members find support in a warm and welcoming clubhouse.
  • Gilda’s Club is easy to join. Anyone living with cancer or any family member or friend can attend a New Member Meeting and complete a CMP (customized membership plan), to explore how Gilda’s Club provides support. Facilitated by Gilda’s Club staff and volunteers, the New Member Meeting includes an introduction to the club and program.
  • Gilda’s Club is a place for the entire community. A collaborative effort across the Kansas City medical community, Gilda’s Club strives to work with community organizations and leverage resources.
  • Gilda’s Club is designed for the whole family, not just for the person living with cancer. Gilda’s Club offers something for everyone.
  • Gilda’s Club is for men affected by cancer, offering a wide variety of activities geared just for men – rare in Kansas City.
  • Gilda’s Club is for teens and children affected by cancer, offering numerous teen and child-focused activities – rare in Kansas City.
  • Gilda’s Club is for women affected by cancer too, offering a wide variety of activities. In fact, Gilda’s Club is named for Gilda Radner, celebrated comedian who had ovarian cancer.
  • Gilda’s Club provides a welcoming social component – just come and be who you are.
  • Gilda’s Club is a global brand, providing a proven and successful program structure throughout North America.
  • Gilda’s Club is open and available six days a week, all year long, for members who need     something readily available

The Program

Like all Gilda’s Clubs, the Gilda’s Club Kansas City program will include the following components:

  • Support and Networking Groups
  • Lectures and Workshops
  • Social Activities
  • Team Convene
  • Family Focus
  • Noogieland (designated for children and their families)
  • ph&d for Cancer Survivors

How it is done at Gilda’s Club: Professional Staff + Volunteers + Passion + Worldwide Support

The organization that manages the Gilda’s Club brand and the development of all Gilda’s Clubs is called Gilda’s Club Worldwide. Each local clubhouse is called an affiliate. It’s a tremendous business model where the sum of the parts is greater than the whole, in that each affiliate benefits from the working knowledge of the clubhouses opened before them. Gilda’s Club Worldwide works very hard to ensure that all clubhouses benefit from best practices, and that resources and information are shared constantly. The relationship between Gilda’s Club Worldwide and its affiliates is close but flexible. Gilda’s Club Worldwide is dedicated to maintaining the standards that scrupulously reflect the philosophy and program fundamentals and vigorously supports these standards. Worldwide believes the Gilda’s Club movement is enlivened by input from the personal and collective wisdom of its affiliates.

It should be noted that any money raised locally, stays locally.  Also, every Gilda’s Club employs top-notch professional and support staff for key positions. In addition to these staff, Gilda’s Club relies on our care of volunteers to deliver many parts of the program. Gilda’s Clubs volunteer positions include (but not limited to):

  • help with clerical tasks such as mailings, phone calls and general administrative tasks
  • conduct workshops or give lectures in their fields of specialty, such as meditation, tai chi,
  • cooking donate their time during social events by providing comedy, music and dance
  • coordinate and lead activities for the Noogieland children’s program
  • assist with grant writing, development and special events

For more information, visit or email

Information for this article taken from Gilda’s Club Kansas City’s website.


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Remembering a mother of peace: Lidia Grilliot

By Megan Hope

On May 1, we lost a great mother of peace: Lidia Grilliot.

I knew Lidia best in the context of her family, as the mother of Marvin and Charlie and the constant companion of her husband, Joe. I don’t think I ever saw her alone. Many knew her far better and longer than I. But her singular effect on me, while only a tiny fraction of the transformative love she practiced during her life, suggests the enormity of her legacy.

I met Marvin in a class on the Politics of Religion in Latin America at KU in the fall of 1998. He brought personal experience to the course topic–his parents met in Chile, Lidia’s homeland, where Joe served for a time as a priest during tumultuous times for the Church in Latin America. Marv and I began came fast friends and spent hours together reviving the Latin American Solidarity student group.

That October, former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was arrested in London on a warrant from Spain requesting his extradition on murder charges. Latin American Solidarity hosted a rice and beans dinner on campus to discuss the development. Lidia and Joe brought their dear friends, Marcos and Alicia Cruz, who described how they were tortured under Pinochet’s regime. It was a dark, disturbing evening, especially given the uncertainty about whether Pinochet would ever be tried. But looking across at Lidia and Joe was comforting. They were our examples of the unflagging friendship and stubborn hope solidarity is made of.

How good it was when they came to other rice and beans dinners, too–not just because of their connections and commitment to Latin America, but because they were parents. My own mom and dad lived six hours away in western Kansas, and were too busy with their own meetings to make a long drive to come to mine. This, and their rather unusual oldness (they were 48 and 49 when I was born), propelled my search as a young adult for satellite parents–not full-time nurturers, but just some representation of parental love and safety. Lidia and Joe were ready satellites.

On September 12, 2001, I stood next to them at a peace vigil by the JC Nichols fountain. I’d come confused and rather ashamed of my lack of anger about the events of the day before, and wasn’t prepared for the vitriol of the drivers passing us. I ruptured into tears. Lidia and Joe encircled me with the compassion and calm of veterans who’d seen it all before. Joe said that even when he was a schoolboy and someone picked a fight with him, he couldn’t bring himself to hit back. Their courage gave me courage to persist in an unpopular resistance.

Lidia made a home that was open to everyone. One long weekend, when I was helping some Peruvian friends new to Kansas City deal with car problems and apartment searching, we ended up at a supper party on the Grilliots’ back porch, overlooking their verdant garden. Lidia fed us well, and Joe later helped my friends find a mechanic. Years later, Carolina and Tito still talk about the kindness of “Lidia y José.”

The Grilliot house is on the way to my sister’s place in Roeland Park. For several years when my sister very ill and needed rides to and from the hospital, we might drive by their home several times a day. Just seeing the paz sign in the front yard, Joe’s cart of aluminum cans in the driveway, or Lidia sitting in the living room at night–signs of parents when our own couldn’t be with us–brought us solace.

At 84, my mother is still surprisingly strong and industrious. Only recently did she stop writing the newspaper column she’d churned out for 55 years. Increasingly, though, her mind is clouded by the effects of chemotherapy, old age, and an impossible jumble of memories, including of six children born in four different decades. She is still here, but many parts of her have slipped away.

I often think about my mom while lying in the dark at night. I remember nights when I was little, worried about falling asleep or not, afraid of bad dreams or school or the future. But always I could see a slant of light shining in, the light from the living room where my mom was reading, only a few seconds’ walk to my room. Somehow I’ve never outgrown the desire, at least once in a while, to call out for her.

These nights I think of Lidia, too, and the light she provided in a room down the hall–for me, my sister, my Peruvian friends, and so many others–when our sources of safety and consolation were far away or fading. Women like Lidia explain the power of the world’s many images of Mary. They explain why Mexican migrants travel with crumpled cards of Our Lady of Guadalupe in their pockets, and Vietnamese seek comfort and healing before Our Lady of La Vang. We need not one mother, but multiple ones, to sit near us and visit us in the darkness.

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Finding peace in the meal

By Ryann Kuykendall

Where and how do you find peace?  This is something I want to ask the people I admire.  I want to sit down with them and really be able to listen and learn from them.  Of course this is not the easiest task because the people I admire are involved in many activities and also mainly because it may appear odd to suddenly say to them, “So how do you live such a purpose-filled life?”

This topic intrigues me much more lately and because tracking down my harmonious heroes to list all they know may not happen any time soon, I have taken the initiative to try and figure out some of the questions I have.  In particular the practice of Zen interests me the most.  To follow up on my curiosity, I have read many peace-themed books with mild success.  My first attempt was “Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.”  I have to tell you, I spent most of my time rereading passages about metaphysics.  Other books like “The Three Pillars of Zen” and “The Religion of India” offered guidance, but not in a way that applied directly to my current stage in life.  It wasn’t until I watched the documentary “How to Cook Your Life” that a simple but new way of thinking suddenly made sense.

The documentary focused on mindfulness when cooking and eating and the idea of treating food as if it were your eyesight.  As a wife and mother, this resonated deeply to me. Far too often I find it easier to pour the meal out of a box without much thought at all to who packaged the food or where the food came from.  This is disappointing because I have seen first hand what life is like for the many migrant farm workers and factory workers who in essence did the work for me.  Most importantly I rarely gave thought of the intention to the meal.   When shopping I sometimes think, “I don’t feel like cooking tonight.” So I get a meal that some stranger prepared at the deli or I cook a meal I could make in the dark.  No thought.  No intention.  My concern has always been to provide my family with a hot meal that will provide the right nutrition.

Cooking was a chore to me.  However for the first time in a long time, I am excited about putting joy into my cooking.  Preparing a wonderful meal that has a clear intention I hope will bring more peace to our home. I also hope we will slow down at meals to be present when enjoying the textures, flavors and aromas.

My family and I pray before meals to give God thanks.  I like to think we are at least one step closer to beginning mindfulness when cooking and eating together.  Usually we pray the traditional Catholic prayer: Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts which we are about to receive from Thy bounty. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.  However not too long ago I heard about a prayer that our friends the Kriege family sometimes prays.  I am thankful for the joy it brought to our table and highly recommend the prayer to anyone.  The following prayer is sung to the tune of the Superman theme song.

(Raise one arm) Thank you God for giving us food
(Raise the other arm)  Thank you God for giving us friends
(Keep arms raised and move as if flying) For the food that we eat
For the friends that we meet
Thank you God for giving us food

Other times they will sing the Alleluia while clapping. I love making prayer and meals a time of smiling and being together.  When talking to the family about the prayer, the mom and wife, Teri told me that her brother-in-law’s family deserves credit and that they are always thinking up new prayers to sing.  “How to Cook Your Life” and all my Zen books don’t mention making up happy songs during meals, but at our table we certainly sing prayers and sometimes we just sing.

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