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Continued: Gilda's Club opens in the Twin Cities, offering special brand of cancer support

“Here there is a such a sense of kindred spirits,” she said. “And you can design what you’d like to do — timewise and interestwise.”

Strict criteria

Lilledahl had explored opening a club in Minnesota years ago. It turned out to be an imposing task, partly because of the club’s distinct start-up criteria.

Its building would have to be close to bus lines, accessible to a freeway and safe for all ages. The nonprofit would have to raise a year’s operating budget, or $1 million, even before opening the doors.

And it had to follow a wellness model for therapy based on best practices in the field.

In 2005, the national Gilda’s Club called Lilledahl to report that two other Twin Cities residents were now interested in launching a club. The three women — Lilledahl, Carrie Puterbaugh and Dolly Lowery — began devising a plan to raise enough money to find a building, renovate it, hire staff, launch the programs, recruit a medical board of directors and build community.

Minnesota friends and Minnesota’s philanthropic spirit came to the rescue. Over eight years, they raised $3.8 million from more than 2,200 donors, who donated both cash and everything from furniture to light fixtures.

Another 400 people and businesses volunteered help, including United Properties of Minneapolis.

The result is a peaceful oasis off Hwy. 394 in Minnetonka.

On a recent evening, eight people gathered on stools in front of a granite countertop in the kitchen. Shari Carlson was among those attending the Food for Life class. It was her first visit.

“I feel like this is my own little kitchen,” she said.

One woman introduced herself to Carlson. Then another.

“She has the same cancer that you do,” one of the women told Carlson, gesturing to her friend. The friend and Carlson embraced.

These types of connections are what Gilda’s Place is about, said Silverman. More than 28,000 people are affected by cancer every year in Minnesota, she said, “and with the opening of Gilda’s Club, none of them has to face this disease alone.”

Bull said Radner would be impressed that 25 years after her death, another club has just opened in her name.

“I think she’d be thrilled to pieces.”


  • related content

  • On July 10, 2014, at the Twin Cities Gilda’s Club, chef Lisa Dahlmeier madea tempeh/ soba-buckwheat stir fry that was also fat by using water to cook the ingredients rather than the oil.

  • Comedy legend Gilda Radner died of ovarian cancer in 1989.

  • Chef Lisa Dahlmeier made tempeh stir-fry at the Twin Cities Gilda’s Club in Minnetonka.

  • An open door: The club, with its signature red door, is one of only 20 nationwide.

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