By Ryan Cigler, Gilda’s Club Volunteer

That was my first thought when I ran by Gilda’s Club for the first time back in June 2010. My family had just relocated back to Wisconsin after living in Colorado for eight years. I was out for a run and took the path behind the clubhouse when I noticed a Gilda’s Club banner.

I had never heard of Gilda’s Club, but I did know who Gilda Radner was, so I naturally assumed it was a comedy club. We were searching for fun things to do in our new community, so as soon as I got home, I sat at my computer and Googled “Gilda’s Club + Madison.”

The value of emotional support

Little did I know that what I was about to learn would change all of our lives for the better. It was a total coincidence how I stumbled upon Gilda’s Club, but their mission certainly hit close to home. Coincidentally, it was a cancer diagnosis that brought our family back to Wisconsin. My wife Jackie was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in November of 2007, she was only 28 and an otherwise perfectly healthy woman with no history of ovarian cancer in her family. Fortunately, Jackie’s story has a happy ending. They removed her tumor and her treatment was a complete success. This November, she will celebrate 17 years of being cancer free!

However, although her doctors were very optimistic about her treatment, that didn’t make the experience any less frightening while we were going through treatment. I say “we” because as anyone who has dealt with a cancer diagnosis will tell you, it doesn’t simply affect the person going through treatment, it affects the entire family. Jackie and I didn’t have much family in CO, most of our support systems were back here in Wisconsin. It made us realize the value of having access to emotional support, and how terrifying the experience would be if you didn’t have the support of friends, family or loved ones.

“It makes me feel good when I help them feel good.”

My parents always required me to volunteer as a child and I was looking for volunteer activities for Payton, my daughter, and I. After reading about Gilda’s Club, it was a no brainer, I signed us up shortly thereafter. Payton and I have been active volunteers since 2011. We’ve been named to the “100 Hours Club” numerous times and Payton was recognized as the “ABCD Volunteer of the Year” in 2016 for becoming the youngest person to reach 100 volunteer hours in a year, she was only 9.

Payton's first volunteer event at the age of 5
Payton’s first volunteer event at the age of 5
Payton as the Gilda’s ABCD Volunteer Award Winner

Payton has never complained about having to volunteer either, she enjoys it because she understands the importance of the services that Gilda’s Club provides. She said, “I know a lot of the members don’t feel very well, or they’re scared. I like that Gilda’s Club is a place where they feel good and are around other people that understand what they’re dealing with. They can be themselves here.”

We give to Gilda’s Club because of our strong belief in the importance of emotional support when dealing with cancer. We’ve lived it ourselves. The least we can do is our little part to help those that don’t have access to the same support systems that we were fortunate enough to have. Or, as Payton puts it, “It makes me feel good when I help them feel good.” I couldn’t have said it better myself!

Ryan and Payton at Gilda’s Run/Walk
Payton and her friend Scarlet, also a longtime Gilda’s volunteer, volunteering at the Madison Farmers Market

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