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Our History

A GRASSROOTS EFFORT…COMPLETING THE CIRCLE OF CARE

A dream fulfilled because of one woman’s energy, courage and dedication to make it happen

Eileen Saffran

In July of 1998, Eileen Saffran, Founder and former CEO, led a grassroots effort to meet a need in the world of cancer care in the Greater Cleveland area. At the time, Eileen had 22 years’ experience as a Licensed Independent Social Worker teaching in University Hospital’s Residency in Family Medicine and working in various healthcare settings as well as in her private counseling practice. Additionally, during the early 1990’s, her parents were diagnosed with different cancers 6 months apart and by the mid-90’s died 3 ½ years apart. It was the combination of her professional and personal journey that illuminated the glaring unmet psychosocial needs in the community. Attempting to meet the non-medical needs focusing on the mind, body and spirit all provided free of charge, set Eileen on her path.

Ellen Heyman

In just 18 months, the grassroots effort that included healthcare professionals from all Cleveland-area hospitals, representatives from other nonprofit organizations, business owners and professionals, individuals with cancer and family members of those with cancer, helped The Gathering Place open its doors to serve in January 2000. The passion and commitment of the founding Board of Directors, initial staff, volunteers and donors helped the organization “complete the circle of care” working collaboratively in the delivery of cancer care in the Greater Cleveland area. Ellen Heyman, working alongside Eileen early in the grassroots movement, became The Gathering Place’s first Chief Program Officer putting in place standards of excellence that others locally and around the United States have sought to emulate.

Ellen worked at University Hospitals for 17 years as an Advance Practice Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse. She worked in a medical-surgical setting where she assisted patients and families to cope with illness and helped develop the skills of the health care team in handling challenging patient situations. Ellen helped create and implement several cancer support groups. She felt that the emotional and psycho-social needs of her patients were not adequately being met and became aware of The Wellness Community, a national organization providing cancer support through affiliates around the country. Eileen, while doing her initial due diligence, was introduced to Ellen through the CEO of the Wellness Community. Eileen and Ellen worked side by side for the next 20 years, Eileen as CEO and Ellen as the Chief Program Officer.

Michele Seyranian

After Eileen retired at the end of 2019, Michele Seyranian assumed the role of Chief Executive Officer. Michele brings strong leadership skills and a deep connection to The Gathering Place. In 2000, the year The Gathering Place opened to the community, Seyranian reached out for information and support after her 4-year-old daughter's cancer diagnosis. She has since maintained her connection to the organization by helping develop a support group for parents of children with cancer, serving two terms on the board of directors and volunteering her strategic planning expertise to facilitate strategic plans for the organization.

"I am thrilled to be offered the incredible opportunity to be the leader of The Gathering Place. Anyone who has walked through our doors understands the critical role The Gathering Place plays in supporting people on their cancer journey, just as it did for my family in 2000.

Thank you to Eileen Saffran and Ellen Heyman for their vision and leadership."


Michele Seyranian

What People Are Saying

"Amazingly embracing and understanding! It is a haven for those affected by cancer, offering practical, social, mental, emotional and physical support."

- Deborah P. (TGP Participant)

TGP By the Numbers

The Gathering Place opened its doors in Beachwood in 2000 in a grass roots effort to provide a space where people felt safe, connected with others and found peace during a time of chaos. A space where the entire family was supported, the services were free of charge and the largest barrier to entry was admitting you needed help. In 2008, a location was opened in Westlake and in 2011 The Gathering Place Richman Family Wellness Center opened in Beachwood to provide exercise programs for individuals in treatment and those who had completed treatment. Since opening its doors, The Gathering Place has served over 47,000 individuals who have made more than 371,000 visits.

47,000+ Participants
Since 2000, The Gathering Place has served more than 47,000 individuals and families on their cancer journey.

$42,000,000+ Raised
From community-based fundraisers to the organization's annual fund, more than $42 million have been raised with the help of our supportive community.

A Nation Served
Since 2020, virtual programs have connected families from Northeast Ohio with loved ones around the globe. Participants have come from all 50 states plus Puerto Rico, D.C., and five countries.

5,900+ Inspired
Programs and services have inspired nearly 6,000 individuals practicing wellness through physical activity.

500+ Children
Our Children, Teen & Family programs have connected with more than 500 children who received grief support when a loved one died from cancer.

100% Privately Funded
The Gathering Place is 100% privately funded thanks to the support of our donors.