Cancer support group errs in messaging, sparking viral backlash

A public outcry over the removal of Gilda Radner’s name from the iconic cancer group becomes a case study of what not to do.

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Gilda’s Club is a community organization with more than 20 local affiliates for people living with cancer, as well as their family and friends. It is named after the late comedian and “Saturday Night Live” actress Gilda Radner, who died in 1989 of ovarian cancer.

The maelstrom around the organization’s freshening up began last week with a simple ribbon-cutting ceremony in Madison, Wis., which was covered by a local newspaper and later picked up by Gawker.

You can probably imagine what happened next.

Major media outlets across the U.S. and Canada started to roll with the story. Shortly thereafter, an online petition on was created and started gaining steam, garnering more than 1,600 signatures in just a few hours.

As a result, the Cancer Support Community (CSC), which merged with Gilda’s Club in 2009, issued a media statement. The two-page statement begins:

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