In the spring of 2008, I changed jobs and had just completed my MBA and suddenly found myself with more time on my hands. After getting back into my social life for a while (something that had suffered the previous few years), I started looking for a new volunteer opportunity in Madison. I come from a long line of family members that have given back to their respective communities and I wanted to continue that.
I had heard a lot about Gilda’s Club as fundraising was happening and really liked the concept of offering cancer support for everyone impacted by the disease. In my family, my mom is a two-time breast cancer survivor – both of those diagnoses have happened when I was an adult – so I felt like I was able to deal with it.
However, my younger brother Jeffrey was diagnosed with brain cancer when he was 9, and unfortunately lost his fight when he was 11 (I was 13 and our younger brother Aaron was 4 at the time). My family had so much support from family, friends and the community, and thankfully my dad had a job that offered excellent insurance. We were also close to top notch medical facilities, but my brother’s diagnosis still brought my family to its knees.
I think we did the best we could, but Gilda’s Club would have been really helpful for not only my family, but Jeffrey’s friends who were dealing with death at such a young age. At the time I probably would have fought with my parents about going (I was in middle school and not always behaving nicely), but as an adult I can look back and know that Gilda’s would have helped my family.
I’ve been volunteering since 2009 and on the Development Committee since 2019, and it’s been gratifying but bittersweet to see Gilda’s become more well-known in the community. On the one hand, I’m glad that people are getting the support they need, but on the other hand, I wish there was a cure for cancer.
I joined the Red Door Society a few years ago because I wanted to make a more substantial donation to Gilda’s Club and know where my dollars were going. The Red Door Society is a group of people who have made a three-year financial commitment to Gilda’s Club. These donations help ensure that no one ever has to be placed on a waiting list to become a member of Gilda’s Club.
I had been putting off my estate planning documents for a while, but finally decided a couple years ago that I needed to get those in place – in case anything happened to me, I didn’t want my family to have the added stress of determining what to do with my estate. I worked with a local attorney to get the documents together and as we talked about how my assets would be allocated, I had a handful of specific organizations that I wanted to include and Gilda’s Club was one of them. I’ve been a longtime volunteer with Gilda’s and truly believe in their mission that no one should face cancer alone and want that to continue even after I’m gone.
-Lisa Van Lieshout