Cancer is a far-reaching illness, affecting nearly every person in the Tri-State in some way. Cancer Pathways Midwest, recently recognized with the Health and Social Services award at Leadership Everyone’s Celebration of Leadership, delivers individualized support and resources to anyone impacted by the deadly disease.
“We were thrilled to be recognized for the work that we’ve done and feel like it kind of validated the work that we’ve been doing,” says Melanie Atwood, Cancer Pathways’ executive director. “Our main goal is that someone will recognize us and what we do and tell someone else so that they don’t have to go through this journey alone. Everything we do is driven around that.”
Opened originally as Gilda’s Club in 2014, the organization changed its name to Cancer Pathways Midwest in April, in an effort to maintain more control over its own programming and avoid paying rising fees.
A Gilda’s Club in Seattle also moved away from the network about four years ago and became the original Cancer Pathways. The local group gained the rights to use the name and became Cancer Pathways Midwest but is completely independent and in charge of its own programming.
Since changing the name, Atwood says the group has seen a 950 percent increase in walk-in visits and referrals.
This community funded organization offers free programs that take place in a clubhouse setting away from medical facilities and are overseen by licensed mental health professionals.
Once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, Atwood says the organization will be onsite more at hospitals and schools, teaching prevention techniques against high-risk behaviors like vaping.
Cancer Pathways provides educational and nutritional workshops, along with a wellness program offering yoga and Tai Chi classes. It is also expanding programming specific for youth and families in collaboration with organizations like cMoe, Wesselman Woods, and the YMCA.
The nonprofit has about 4,500 visits to its programming and activities, serving 400-500 people each year in the Tri-State.
“Our goal is to reach them in a number of ways and to help them right in the middle of their most devastating time,” says Atwood. “If you’re newly diagnosed, then you need something different than if you’re done with treatment or if you’ve just lost a loved one. We have a program for all of them.”