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Quick Facts for the Media

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The Gilda’s Club mission is to ensure that all people impacted by cancer are empowered by knowledge, strengthened by action, and sustained by community.

What is Gilda’s Club Desert Cities?

Gilda’s Club Desert Cities is an affiliate of the Cancer Support Community, the nation’s largest non-profit organization providing free cancer support services throughout the United States and worldwide for over 30 years.

Gilda’s Club is a welcoming place that offers emotional, social and educational support for everyone living with cancer in the Coachella Valley. People of all ages, with any type and stage of cancer, as well as their caregivers, family members and loved ones, can come. They thrive in the nurturing environment of Gilda's Club, and benefit from a full program that encompasses professionally led cancer support groups, fitness, nutrition and expressive arts classes, educational lectures and workshops, and social activities.  

Institute of Medicine Report Cites Benefits of Participating in Gilda’s Club Programs:

In 2007, the Institute of Medicine issued a report that stated: “Today, it is not possible to deliver good-quality cancer care without addressing patients’ psychosocial health needs.”  In fact, the Institute concluded that in the face of a cancer diagnosis, social and emotional support is as important as medical care. Research shows that those who participate in the Gilda’s Club program have improved partnerships with their health care teams and a greater sense of wellbeing.  

Gilda’s Club History:

Gilda’s Club is named for the zany Saturday Night Live comedienne, Gilda Radner, who herself benefited from cancer support groups when she had ovarian cancer.

Gilda’s Club Desert Cities was founded in the year 2000 as a grassroots effort led by Sun City Palm Desert residents Paula Berke, Phyllis Greene, Judy Wolfe and Estelle Cooper. Their dedicated efforts came to fruition when the Clubhouse opened its welcoming doors in Cathedral City in November of 2004. Paula Kennedy was the Founding President and CEO, serving through 2014. In December 2013, Gilda’s Club relocated to a newly purchased building in Palm Desert, a more central location that allows even more Coachella Valley individuals and families to be served.


Gilda’s Club is a 501c(3) non-profit organization (Federal Tax Number 33-0911108)  that derives its funding principally from individuals, grants, corporations, and special events. All funds raised stay in the Desert Communities.

Maria Elena Geyer is Gilda’s Club President and CEO, and Litsa Mitchell, MA, LMFT, is Program Director. The current Chairman of the 13-member Board of Directors is Paul D. Golden. Gilda’s Club is also guided by a Chairman’s Council, Medical Resource Council, and Planned Giving Advisory Council.

For more information on Board of Directors, click here.

The Five Core Components of the Gilda’s Club Program:

  1. Cancer Support
    Professionally led support groups for newly diagnosed patients, those with chronic/long-term cancer, survivors, caregivers/loved ones, children, couples, parents and the bereaved
  2. Education
    Lectures and workshops presented by physicians, and other health care professionals
  3. Healthy Lifestyles
    Mind-body stress reduction classes such as yoga, tai chi,meditation; expressive arts such as painting and writing; performing arts; and nutrition education
  4. Social Connections
    Potlucks, parties, family events, meals, entertainment, special events
  5. Resources and Referrals
    Library, community resources, Internet access,personalized referrals

Special Program Features:

Evening Support Groups:
In addition to its daytime program, Gilda’s Club now offers a full complement of evening support groups. They are held every Thursday night, and two of the groups are in Spanish. The evening program—the only one of its kind in the Coachella Valley—is a boon to working individuals and families. 
“Gilda’s on the Go” Off-site Programs:
Thanks to the “Gilda’s on the Go” program, support groups and activities are conducted at a number of community sites throughout the Coachella Valley. They bring Gilda’s Club programming closer to home for those living at some distance from the main location.

Programs for Families: 

A diagnosis of cancer impacts the entire family, and Gilda’s Club is committed to lending support:

  1. Couples During Cancer addresses the unique challenges that couples face when one person is diagnosed and the other is suddenly in the role of caregiver. 
  2. Parenting Through Cancer provides support and guidance to parents in addressing their children’s concerns when a parent has cancer. 
  3. Noogieland is a warm, supportive and fun environment where children ages 5 to 13 can talk about cancer on their own terms and cancer doesn’t have to be a secret. 
  4. The Gilda’s Club Teen Essay Contest gives high school students the opportunity to relate their experience and express their feelings of living with cancer, whether their own or that of a close friend or family member. Writers of the top three essays receive monetary awards to assist them with their future education.

For more information about all of our Programs, click here.

Getting Started (Membership):

Gilda’s Club free programs of cancer support are open to all residents of the Desert Communities whose lives have been affected by cancer.  All it takes to get started is to attend an Orientation Meeting that includes a tour and overview of the program. A qualified professional helps each person select the support groups and activities best suited for them. 

Orientation meetings are held twice weekly:

Every Tuesday at 10 am and 5:30 pm
Every Thursday evening at 4:00 pm (In Spanish)
Calling ahead to reserve a place in the orientation is advised—760-770-5678.
Individual appointments are also available to meet your schedule needs. 

For more information on Membership, click here.

Major Fundraising Events:

A variety of fundraising events is held each year in support of the Gilda’s Club mission.  Traditionally, the three biggest are the Gilda’s Gift of Giving boutique, silent auction, luncheon and fashion show, held in the fall; an Entertainment Night held in the spring; and a springtime event such as a luncheon held by Friends of Gilda’s Club—Sun City.

For more information on fundraising events, click here.


Gilda’s Club has volunteer opportunities of all kinds, ranging from providing office support to preparing and serving meals at social events and representing Gilda’s Club at community health fairs and other outreach events.  Prospective volunteers consult with the volunteer coordinator to match their skills and interests with available opportunities.   

For more information on volunteering, click here.


IIn Fiscal Year 2013-2014

  • More than 850 individuals made 10,760 visits to Gilda’s Club programs
  • 541 Support Groups, 31 Lectures, and 431 Healthy Lifestyle Classes were provided
  • There were 283 new members, an average of 23 new members per month
  • More than 150 volunteers - many of them cancer survivors - contributed more than 8500 hours of service

Location and Hours of Operation:

Main location:
73555 Alessandro Dr.
Palm Desert, CA 92260



9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday
Evening programs every Thursday and select Tuesdays
Daytime programs on select Saturdays 


Social Media:

Media Contacts:

Maria Elena Geyer, President/CEO
Office: 760-770-5678 ext. 109

Anita Roark, Public Relations Consultant
Office: 760-770-0922 or 760-770-5678 ext. 105
Cell:  760-424-9639 or