WRIF’s Steve Black Honored by Gilda’s Club

August 28, 2013

Steve Black, a radio host on WRIF-FM in Detroit, has dedicated significant time over the last seven years to the emotional and financial needs of cancer patients.

In recognition of his efforts, on May 16 he received the Founders Award, the highest honor given by Gilda’s Club Metro Detroit, the cancer resource center named after the late comedian Gilda Radner.

The Founders Award is the most prestigious award that they give out every year,” Black said. “The award is for people who are mission-focused [to Gilda’s Club], whether they are bringing a new idea, or just volunteering, or their dedication to fundraising.”

Black’s involvement in cancer support groups and with Gilda’s Club actually comes from a completely different foundation. Black is the founder of the Sabrina Black Foundation, named after his wife, a Detroit radio personality. Diagnosed with cancer at age 29, Sabrina lost her battle with the disease by age 35.

“Right before she passed away, we talked about creating the Sabrina Black Foundation,” Black said. “We were inspired by our station helping to pay her hospital bills.”

Although Black was involved with spousal support groups and other initiatives at Gilda’s Club, he started the Sabrina Black Foundation in 2006 with the intent of financially supporting a patient by “adopting” them for a period of time.

“What we did that was different than other foundations was instead of trying to find a cure and trying to help everyone a little bit, we would adopt one to two patients per year and pay their entire medical bill, whatever that was,” Black said. “It was life-changing that we were able to touch someone, but it wasn’t a great number of people.”

Black operated the Sabrina Black Foundation for six years, until the weight of constantly remembering his wife as sickly and not as a healthy woman eventually caught up with him.

“We ultimately decided that the foundation itself was connecting me to the wrong memories of Sabrina,” Black said. “I wanted to remember the good times with Sabrina, but the foundation was tying me to funerals, medical bills, the constant stress of everyday life, and the struggles of a cancer patient and caregiver.”

Black decided to approach Gilda’s Club to see if it would be interested in taking on the Sabrina Black Foundation’s assets, liabilities and patient commitments.

“Both Sabrina and I had taken involvement in Gilda’s Club, so I reached out to them and asked for someone to absorb the foundation,” Black said. “I still wanted to have an impact, but I didn’t want to deal with the everyday stress of it.”

Gilda’s Club received around $50,000 of the Sabrina Black Foundation’s remaining assets last summer, along with the foundation’s last client and remaining responsibilities. Black joined Gilda’s Club’s Board of Directors and now concentrates his cancer support efforts on that group.

“I still do one to two fundraisers per year in memory of Sabrina, but it’s all Gilda’s Club,” Black said.

WRIF-FM Detroit hosted a Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert in December that raised $10,000 for Gilda’s Club.

While Gilda’s Club has a different aim than the Sabrina Black Foundation did, its support for cancer patients and their families was something that the Blacks took advantage of during Sabrina’s illness.

“Gilda’s Club is an actual home, and people can come there for support on any number of levels,” Black said. “There are a number of activities to get your mind off the day-to-day struggles that you’re dealing with and do something else.”

That network of other survivors, family members and loved ones is what Black is ultimately looking to be a part of, and he found that home at Gilda’s Club.

“I saw a lady in the library in Gilda’s Club the other day, and I just let her cry on my shoulder to let her know that she’s not alone,” Black said. “It’s all about community support.”