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Stories From Main Street: Gilda Radner's Spirit Lives On In Hackensack

HACKENSACK, NJ (WCBS 880) - Oh, how Gilda Radner made us laugh. The quirky comedienne had an infectious smile.

More than twenty years after her death from ovarian cancer, her spirit and lust for laughter live on in Gilda's Club.

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"She began to start it with Joanna Bull, her therapist at that time. It was her goal to have someplace where people could go that was a non-clinical setting," says Ruth Dugan, who heads the North Jersey clubhouse in Hackensack, which is a warm, inviting place. Every room is cozy, comfortable, and relaxing.

"They have opportunities to do yoga, and to do art - and they find a niche for themselves," Dugan said.

Stories from Main Street
Stories from Main Street - Photo: Evan Bindelglass / WCBS 880

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There are seminars, support groups for every type of cancer and even a special place for little ones.

"Our youth program's name is Nuggieland. It's named for the "nuggies" that Bill Murray would give Gilda Radner on "Saturday Night Live," says social worker Brooke Laster, who uses art and play as a non-threatening introduction to therapy.

"They'll talk about, 'I worry mom's cancer's gonna come back' or 'I worry that my surviving parent is going to get cancer too.' The emotions that go along with that - the anger, the fear, the confusion, the sadness - but we also have fun here."

LINK: Gilda's Club (Official Website)

Everything at Gilda's Club is absolutely free. This chapter helps more than 3,000 families and is expanding into Newark, Paterson, and Jersey City.

Dugan always keeps Gilda Radner in mind, saying, "We try to model the fact that it's very sad, it's very tough, but we'll always find something to laugh about, to give you that 'yuck' that you need to get through that day."

Gilda's Club is located at 575 Main Street in Hackensack.

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