Officials hope to relocate some services to the church across the street during repairs. (Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)
Royal Oak— Gilda’s Club Detroit, a place for those with cancer, sustained major water damage when a pipe burst and flooded the four-story house.
Leaders of the club, which was formed in 1998 in honor of the late comedian Gilda Radner and celebrated its 16th anniversary this month, estimate the damage could cost as much as $200,000 because several inches of water seeped into floors, ceilings and walls throughout the house.
Depending on the damage, it could be a month before the facility can be used.
“It was literally coming out of the ceiling like a fire hydrant,” said Laura Varon Brown, executive director and CEO of the club that has a budget between $600,000 and $1 million from private donations. “I’ve never seen anything like it. It was the most surreal thing.”
The sprinkler system pipe in the third-floor ceiling burst around 5:15 p.m. Wednesday while some of the programs, including a wellness group of men and women who are receiving treatment for cancer, had just begun. Four of the eight public rooms and two offices sustained water damage. In parts of the house, the ceilings were saturated with water.
Brown said one woman who has cancer lightened the mood as firefighters roamed the club, joking “I’m so glad I wore my wig.”
“We all kind of started laughing because, this is water damage. We’re going to fix this,” Brown recalled. “We have people who are going through so much worse here, so her kind of moment of levity was fantastic.”
Club officials are hoping to relocate those who use the house Monday through Thursday for the club’s services to a church across the street until the damage can be repaired, but no decision has been made. Contractors were working on the house Thursday.
Gilda’s Club has more than 120 free programs that feature support groups, as well as art, music, yoga, bingo and tai chi for men, women and children. Total membership since its inception has been nearly 10,000.
Tom Callan, chairman of the club’s board, said officials are trying to determine total damage but estimated it could take a month for the facility to be operational and services to begin again.
“We’ve had an outpouring of concern,” Callan said. “People are literally just stopping by the house to see if they can help. The house has always been sort of a sanctuary for people that are affected by cancer.”
The house on Rochester Road in Royal Oak is 9,500 square feet and was built in 1913 as a Sears Roebuck catalog home. Gilda’s Club is an affiliate of the Cancer Support Community.
The Metro Detroit location is the second to open after the New York chapter in honor of Radner, who died of ovarian cancer in 1989. Radner, a one-time star on “Saturday Night Live,” was born in Detroit.