PHOTO: Gilda’s Club President and CEO Sandy Obodzinski and chair Jim Brown help cut the ribbon on the newest cancer support center, located at the Provision Proton Therapy Center in Franklin, on May 15, 2018. / Brooke Wanser
By BROOKE WANSER
Gilda’s Club of Middle Tennessee celebrated their new Franklin location on Tuesday evening with an open house, food trucks, and cake.
An affiliate of the Cancer Support Community, Gilda’s Club provides a gathering place for people with cancer and their families, as well as emotional support resources and mind-body classes and workshops, free of charge.
Sandy Obodzinski, the president and CEO of the club’s Middle Tennessee branch, thanked Sandy Towers for bringing the club to the area 20 years ago.
Towers formed the branch in Nashville after her best friend, Kristy Olson, was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of 26.
Since then, the club has expanded operations and serves 15 counties in Middle Tennessee from the Nashville location, and now, the Franklin one.
The club’s name comes from Gilda Radner, an original cast member on Saturday Night Live, who died after battling ovarian cancer in 1989.
Radner’s husband, Gene Wilder, and her psychotherapist helped found the original Gilda’s Club in New York City.
The Williamson County location is the first to be housed inside a Provision Proton center, a relatively new treatment in the field of cancer in which a cyclotron machine is used to pinpoint cancer cells while minimizing damage to surrounding tissue.
Obodzinski said she was approached by Provision’s vice president, David Raubach, who used to serve on the board of a Gilda’s Club sister organization in East Tennessee, nearly two years ago.
“He understood the mission, understood the value of cancer support, and wanted us in this building,” she said.
The Middle Tennessee chapter of Gilda’s Club took a trip to Provision’s headquarters in Knoxville 22 months ago, club chair Jim Brown said.
“It was like a Gilda’s Club,” Brown said. “They had all this technology, they had these incredible people, but they had the same thing, they had peace and smiles,” he said. “This is like our family.”
“Cancer is not cool,” Brown finished, “but free cancer support is super cool.”
Williamson Inc. Senior Vice President of Community Relations Nancy Conway opened the official ribbon cutting ceremony. She was joined by a Gilda’s Club staff group with a cumulative 96.5 years of service.
Stray raindrops fell and thunder crackled briefly as a crowd of over 100 people ate dinner from Puckett’s food truck, received face and body paintings, played cornhole, and tasted red velvet cake before touring the newest location.
Gilda’s Club is located in a suite on the second floor of the building, with rooms for therapy and support sessions behind the signature red door.