In 1982, Harold and Harriet Benjamin transformed the way our culture faces cancer. Harriet, a cancer survivor herself, sought to create an organization that would provide social and emotional support to not only cancer patients, but also to families, friends, and caregivers. The Benjamins strongly encouraged psychosocial care because they believed in a strong correlation between emotional and physical well-being. Thus, the first walk-in community facility of its kind, The Wellness Community (TWC), was founded in Santa Monica, CA as an outlet for those suffering from cancer to receive appropriate support.
The first Wellness Community in Santa Monica, CA
One of the biggest advocates of TWC was late comedian and “SNL” cast member Gilda Radner. When diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1986, Radner sought support from TWC. She called for similar support-focused organizations to be available not only on the West coast, but everywhere. Unfortunately, in 1989, Gilda passed away.
Gilda Radner and Harold Benjamin
In honor of Gilda’s legacy, her husband Gene Wilder, and Joanna Bull, along with friends and family, founded Gilda’s Club in 1991. The first local Affiliate organization, Gilda’s Club New York City (GCNYC), opened its iconic Red Door in 1995.
In 2007, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released Cancer Care for the Whole Patient: Meeting Psychosocial Health Needs, a groundbreaking report on the importance of addressing the social and emotional needs of individuals facing cancer, rather than just their physical needs—an idea The Wellness Community and
Gilda’s Club Worldwide had both been implementing for many years. This eventually sparked merger discussions between the two organizations, which aimed to increase operating efficiency and reduce overall costs in order to provide greater resources and influence.
In 2009, The Wellness Community and Gilda’s Club Worldwide merged, becoming a united organization under the name Cancer Support Community. As a result of this union, Cancer Support Community is now the largest provider of cancer support worldwide, with 42 affiliates across the country - including Cancer Support Community Pasadena - and also in Canada, Israel and Japan. CSC has dramatically increased its capacity to reach even more people touched by cancer.
The organization has developed the Cancer Support Helpline, the Cancer Experience Registry and greatly expanded the Frankly Speaking About Cancer educational materials and radio shows. Further, CSC established the Research & Training Institute and the Cancer Policy Institute, and piloted an inaugural hospital-integrated model. Through all of these developments, CSC has worked to further expand its services so that “no one faces cancer alone”.
Cancer Support Community Pasadena
Cancer Support Community Pasadena (“CSCP”) was the third CSC affiliate established in 1990 by our founders Debbie Bolton, RN, Dr. Marguerite Marsh, Arlene Harder, and the late Paul Taylor. Anne Kennedy served as the organization’s first Executive Director and continues to be actively involved in CSCP today.
CSCP, then known as the Wellness Community – Foothills, first operated in a small house located at Hill Street in Pasadena. The organization moved to 200 E. Del Mar Blvd. in Pasadena where it remained for 23 years. In 2016, CSCP moved to its beautiful current facility located on the second floor of the Pasadena Humane Society’s building at the corner of Raymond Ave. and Del Mar Blvd. in Pasadena.
CSCP’s current location: 76 E. Del Mar Blvd., Suite #215, Pasadena, CA 91105
For the past 30 years, CSCP has served over 21,000 people challenged with cancer. The organization currently provides 12 weekly support groups and three monthly support groups facilitated by professional mental health therapists, and over 125 monthly education workshops led by experts in their field along with stress management classes.