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Despite never having been afflicted with the disease, Joe Perry considers himself to be a cancer survivor because he’s been touched by the devastating illness through the loss of friends and family, including both of his parents.

"Family members are survivors too," Perry says. "We’re all survivors."

Perry is the program director of Gilda’s Club Metro Detroit, a free support community for those affected by cancer. The first Gilda’s Club was founded in 1995 in honor of comedian, Detroit native and SNL star Gilda Radner, whose dream was "to create a community where men, women and children with all types of cancer and their families and friends can enhance the quality of their lives through support, networking and education."

On Saturday, for the fourth year, GCMD will commemorate National Cancer Survivors Day with a daylong celebration. Live entertainment will be provided by local acts, including the Candy Band (hyperactive moms who perform punk-rock nursery rhymes), Jill Jack, Harpbeat!, Liz Larin, Doctor Pocket and motivational singer Hugh Burrell.

Perry says the performers have been very supportive of the cause — most of them have lost someone to cancer or know a person who’s living with the disease.

In addition to the rockin’, the day will offer a variety of activities for the whole family, including magician Josh Silverstein, a dunk tank, party games and prizes.

Family togetherness, Perry says, is the key to coping with this disease. "Gilda’s Club just looks like a big old empty house, but when you fill it up with people, it becomes a magical place. Cancer has a way of making you think, ‘I am the only one that feels this way,’ and Gilda’s Club tries to combat that."

Seems that even in death, Radner’s spirit can keep the laughs coming — expect many of them Saturday.


11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Saturday, May 4. 3517 Rochester Rd., Royal Oak; 248-577-0898, No cover.

Melanie Seasons is a freelance writer. Send comments to

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