From a young age, my Mom was adamant that my brother and I be involved in philanthropic activities. We would make May Day Baskets for the residents at the local retirement center in our hometown, we’d serve meals at local churches on Christmas and Thanksgiving, and I volunteered at a therapeutic riding stable for children with developmental and physical impairments. I currently volunteer with Take A Vet Fishing and Gilda’s Club Madison. 

I’ve been volunteering with Gilda’s Club in different capacities since about 2012 and have been serving on the board of directors since summer 2019. Funny enough, I initially began volunteering with Gilda’s Club because my girlfriend at the time, now wife, was volunteering there as a part of her required college curriculum. I figured, at best, I’d impress her through my interest to volunteer, and at worst, I could make use of my time by lending a helping hand. My Mom and Stepdad had also been involved with Gilda’s for a number of years so, I figured I’d give it a shot. When I first began volunteering with Gilda’s Club, I appreciated the cause, the other volunteers, the members and the gratitude I received. However, I gained a new perspective and appreciation for Gilda’s when cancer impacted my family. 

After 2 years of volunteering with Gilda’s, my father-in-law, Jeff, was diagnosed with stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and the tables were turned on us. The initial shock of a cancer diagnosis in our family was frightening, confusing and even angering. My wife and I and her family began benefiting from the support and education Gilda’s offered, and now we were the ones showing gratitude to the volunteers and staff. Jeff underwent treatment and has now been in remission for over 3 years. He is so grateful for the abundant support Gilda’s Club provided and continues to provide today, and is overwhelmed by the stories of communal support those involved with Gilda’s Club offer one another. My in-laws are now frequent financial donors to Gilda’s Club and enjoy attending annual events.

My involvement with Gilda’s Club has been humbling, impactful and rewarding. I hope others are able to discover what a compassionate organization Gilda’s Club is.

-Jon Hepner

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