Jill Welbern-Tibbetts is no stranger to the impact that a loving and supportive community makes during a challenging time. When her daughter, Ashlee Welbern, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma at the age of three, she experienced an outpouring of love and support from friends and family. Despite the immense assistance from her loved ones, Jill was still overwhelmed with her young daughter’s diagnosis, and was particularly worried about the impact it would have on Ashlee’s older brother. During a trip to the hospital, Jill noticed a Gilda’s Club flyer for a family activity day and decided to attend. “It didn’t even cross my mind to reach out to something local.”
At Gilda’s Club, Jill found connection and support from people who understood her. Her children met other kids with similar experiences and were reminded that they weren’t alone. “Gilda’s Club gave us something tangible to do together and a place to connect with local people.” The family event at Gilda’s Club left a lasting positive impact and resulted in a lifelong friendship with another family whose son had cancer.
GIVING TO GILDA’S
Thirteen years later, the impact Gilda’s Club had on the Welbern family is still top of mind. In October, as family members, friends, and community members poured into Station Camp High School’s “Giving to Gilda’s” event, it quickly became evident that Ashlee Welbern and project partner, Peyton Ausderau’s, enthusiasm for supporting those living with cancer had inspired even more people than they had anticipated.
As the event attendees perused excellently curated auction items and greeted their tablemates, it was clear that all the seats would be filled and that the high schoolers would exceed their fundraising goals.
The newly minted fundraisers visited each beautifully decorated table to thank their guests for coming to learn about the benefits of GCMTN and the importance of supporting families in a time when they need it most.
From the podium at the front of the room, Jill gratefully recollected on the power of community during that challenging time.
She also recognized the importance of local resources like Gilda’s Club, which allowed for customized support and provided a place where they could go together as a family to connect with people who had lived through what she and her family had gone through. Gilda’s Club had come into their lives at “just the right time.”
Ashlee was too young to remember many of the details of her diagnosis, so together, the two decided to read Jill’s online journal entries. This was another safe place for Jill to express her feelings and receive support from friends and family. Both shared that reading the entries together was healing and provided closure. Jill shared, “There is not a day that goes by that we don’t realize what a gift we have.”
For both Jill and Ashlee, it has been “bittersweet” to relive the days when Ashlee had cancer. A reflection on the challenging time, however, was eclipsed by the joy felt when seeing Ashlee and Peyton focus their efforts on giving back to others. Ashlee remarked that “working together to help kids like me” has allowed for renewed focus, healing, and empowerment.
Peyton and Ashlee were so gratified and uplifted by the number of people who donated to support kids and families facing cancer at Gilda’s Club that the duo will continued their fundraising by supporting Gilda’s Club with a toy-drive for the winter holidays.