Before gliding into the holidays and 2019, I had a wonderful time celebrating the life of legendary comedienne Gilda Radnor in support of the Cancer Support Community Los Angeles (CSCLA) at the Annual Gilda Awards Gala.
CSCLA was founded on the belief that no one should face cancer alone®, and its mission is to ensure that all cancer patients and their families are empowered by knowledge, strengthened by action, and sustained by community. CSCLA offers cancer victims emotional and psychological support and healthy lifestyle services, including education, child and family programs, and social activities – completely free of charge.
Supporting these invaluable services CSCLA provides, the fundraising gala was an evening of laughter and tears – happy tears, that is.
Mindy Sterling, best known for her portrayal of Frau Farbissina in the Austin Powers trilogy, served as a fierce and wickedly funny emcee for the occasion. A breast cancer survivor herself, Ms. Sterling stole the show with her openness, honesty, and downright hilarious sense of humor. But it was a private conversation with her just steps outside of the ballroom, that left the most lasting impression on me…
When I thanked her for lending her strong – and wildly funny – voice to such an important cause, Sterling said of the evening, “I love talking to people, sharing experiences, and bringing some levity to it.” “[Breast cancer] is not a death sentence,” she continued. “It’s so important to talk about, to tell people, and not to hide.” And with that sincerity, Ms. Sterling led an unforgettable evening celebrating achievement within the CSCLA community.
After an improvisational performance by The Groundlings, the inspiring Stage 3 breast cancer survivor Anna Romo took the stage to speak about what the CSCLA has personally meant to her and her family. “I am not expected to be strong,” she boldly stated. “I am strong.” And it was clear that her strength came largely from the support CSCLA offered her throughout her journey since 2016.
Writer/producer Leah Keith then presented the evening’s “Community Champion” Gilda Award to multiple-Emmy nominated and SAG Award-winning actress, Sharon Lawrence. Best known for her recurring role on NYPD Blue, as well as prominent roles on Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy, and Curb Your Enthusiasm, Ms. Lawrence has also starred in films like Diedra & Laney Rob A Train, Solace, and Middle of Nowhere. Off-screen, Ms. Lawrence serves on the Board of Directors for Heal The Bay, she has performed in the John Wayne Cancer Institute’s breast cancer benefit series “What a Pair!,” and she partakes in the National Breast Cancer Coalition’s “Les Girls Cabaret” benefit in support of breast cancer awareness and research. Ms. Lawrence remains committed to breast cancer awareness, research, and recovery, as someone whose close family members have dealt with and are battling breast cancer currently.
Jordan Walker-Pearlman, the nephew of Gene Wilder, presented the “Legacy Champion” Gilda Award to director Lisa D’Apolito, founder of branded content agency 3Faces Films. Her feature documentary, Love, Gilda, was selected as the opening night film of the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival. Variety Magazine named Ms. D’Apolito one of Variety’s 10 Documentarians to Watch in 2018, and her moving film tribute to Ms. Radnor captured the hearts of everyone in the ballroom. The piece was sad, funny, bittersweet, nostalgic, and yet beautifully up-lifting – what Walker-Pearlman said was reminiscent of Ms. Radnor, herself.
Mitch Golant, Ph.D., of the CSCLA Board of Directors, finally presented The “Harold H. Benjamin Innovation Award” to the honoree and CSCLA Professional Advisory Board Member, David Wellisch, Ph.D. A Professor-in-Residence and Chief Psychologist of the Adult Division in the Department of Psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Dr. Wellisch has practiced medicine for 43 years. Having authored 150 publications on psychological aspects of cancer, and consulted, served on, and chaired committees at the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Wellisch has dedicated his career to clinical work and research with cancer patients and their families. In 2012, Dr. Wellisch won the Noemi Fisman Award for Lifetime Clinical Excellence from the International Psycho-Oncology Society, naming him the outstanding clinician in psycho-oncology on a worldwide basis.
Cancer Support Community was founded in 1982 in Santa Monica, California by Dr. Harold and Harriet Benjamin, and in 2009, The Wellness Community and Gilda’s Club joined forces with CSC to expand into a global network of 175 locations, call centers, and program facilities, reaching more than one million people each year.