MIDDLETON (WKOW) -- A local cancer support group that carried the name of an comedienne/actress lost to cancer has changed its name.
Gilda's Club of Madison will now be known as the Cancer Support Community of Southwest Wisconsin. The Cancer Support Community is a parent organization of Gilda's Club. The organization made it official with a ribbon-cutting and ceremony this evening.
The Madison area club, located in Middleton, became the third Gilda's Club chapter to change its name, following the lead of clubs in Dallas and Milwaukee.
Gilda's Club was named in honor of Gilda Radner, a popular entertainer in the 70's and 80's through her work on Saturday Night Live, in films and on Broadway.
She died in 1989 at age 42 from ovarian cancer.
The cancer support organization that was started with the help of Radner's family in New York City after her death, Gilda's Club, grew to about 20 affiliates across the country.
The Madison affiliate says the name change will help people better recognize and understand the services the club offers.
"The name 'Cancer Support Community' really says very clearly what we do," says Lannia Stenz, Executive Director of Gilda's Club of Madison. "We work with people who have cancer. We offer support; emotional support and then also we're a community."
It's the kind of support Carl Gehrmann says he wouldn't know where he'd be without. Carl, who has three types of cancer, joined Gilda's Club as soon as the Madison area branch opened in 2008.
"You get to learn how to live with the cancer," Carl says. "You meet so many different people. You learn how they live. They live with it. They enjoy their life."
For Carl, losing Gilda's name will be bittersweet but he says he is looking forward to welcoming more people at the re-named facility. The local chapter plans to expand to cover 14 southern Wisconsin counties.
Others don't understand the reasons behind the change.
"I can't imagine changing the name," says Lily Safani, the CEO of the founding chapter in New York. "It is a brand that we have developed."
Safani says the New York chapter will always keep Gilda's name, because she is such a part of their mission.
"Of course people who are 20-something didn't grow up with Gilda Radner," she says. "But that doesn't mean to say that they can't learn about her."
Safani says the New York City chapter has been getting calls ever since the Madison area chapter name change was announced, from people there are concerned it's becoming a trend. She says that's not true, only two affiliates have changed their name.