Dear Gilda’s members, volunteers and supporters,
The coronavirus pandemic has altered our world in a thousand different ways, including ways that we still can’t define. All of us at Gilda’s Club miss seeing the faces of our members and volunteers. We find ourselves “pivoting” with our fundraising events and getting creative with our virtual program offerings. Just like the rest of our community, we find ourselves facing new challenges and opportunities every day.
I’m writing today because our Board of Directors made the important decision in July to set a “will not open the clubhouse before” date of January 4, 2021 and I want you to be among the first to know what this means for the broader Gilda’s Club community.
So – what does this mean and is there a silver lining?
I want to be clear. Our virtual programs will keep going strong throughout 2020. Gilda’s Club Madison is here to support individuals and families facing cancer. We aren’t going anywhere. Our work will just continue virtually through year-end, and beyond, if the risk of COVID-19 remains high in our community and state. In the meantime, we are going to miss seeing our members and volunteers in person like mad.
This important move will help ensure that participation in programming does not increase the risk of COVID-19 for our members. Those we serve represent a number of high-risk populations (cancer patients, cancer survivors with a compromised immune system, and older populations, as well as caregivers and loved ones who are in close contact with these high-risk folks). This decision will also allow Gilda’s Club staff to focus on making virtual programming as robust as it can be and reduce some clubhouse-related expenses.
And the silver lining? Well, for Gilda’s Club, the shift to virtual programming in March went pretty smoothly. When we started exploring Zoom for programs in January, little did we know how important this tool would become to our organization and members!
Moving forward, it’s likely that Gilda’s Club Madison will always offer some programs virtually, particularly for members who live more than 45 minutes away and those who feel too unwell to attend in person. In fact, since we made the shift to virtual support, we have seen increased participation among members who live outside of Dane County. That is the biggest silver lining we have experienced: our organization has been able to reach and serve people we were not previously serving due to distance or degree of illness.
Several hundred members have embraced this virtual “new normal” with Gilda’s Club and have been actively participating in many of the nearly 60 program offerings each month. 50 new members have joined us since March, completing a program orientation by phone. Referrals for new members are sent to email@example.com and new members are integrated into virtual groups and programs as we go.
What about re-opening? In November or December of 2020, our Board of Directors will review the feasibility of launching our Re-Opening Plan in January of 2021. If it is deemed safe, we will work our way through five progressively engaged Phases that incorporate safety measures including outdoor activities where feasible, mandatory face masks, social distancing, sanitizing hands and surfaces, and limiting the size of gatherings. Our timeline will lag behind other industries and will be based on the needs of the immunocompromised members we serve, the ability of our staff to adequately prepare the clubhouse for re-entry, data and recommendations from health experts, and the comfort and readiness of our Gilda’s community.
How can you help? Although we are out of the clubhouse, the costs associated with Gilda’s Club programming, operations, and development continue at nearly pre-COVID levels. If you would like to get involved in helping support our efforts during this challenging year, I encourage you to register your foursome for Red Doors Golf in September or participate in Gilda’s Run/Walk in October (now virtual!) Host a birthday Facebook fundraiser for Gilda’s or ask friends and families to donate to Gilda’s in lieu of holiday gifts. Consider joining our three-year Red Door Society and remembering Gilda’s in your year-end giving.
Your support, at any level, helps ensure that no one in our community has to face cancer alone.
Gilda’s Club Madison