LaughFest dates announced, festival impacting cancer grief counseling awareness

Posted at 9:36 PM, Sep 02, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-02 21:36:34-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- The dates have been set for the next LaughFest. It will be the sixth year for the event that benefits Gilda's Club of Grand Rapids.

With more than 300 events, LaughFest ticket proceeds help provide free grief counseling for people affected by cancer in West Michigan.

About 50,000 people took part in LaughFest in 2015, and organizers are hopeful 2016 will bring in plenty more and, of course, more laughs.

LaughFest Director Joanne Roehm says that the festival began as fun way to increase the awareness for the services available at Gilda's club. "Gilda Radner said that when she was diagnosed with cancer, she lost her funny, and she wasn't able to find that funny back until she sat down in a room with people who were experiencing the same thing as her," said Roehm.

After the first festival, the organization saw an uptick in the number of people seeking grief counseling, Roehm said. As the popularity of LaughFest increases, so does awareness of how cancer can emotionally impact families in West Michigan.

"We are all going to encounter grief, and we are all going to encounter cancer in our lives at this point," said Roehm. "We would love to be put out of business someday when cancer is cured."

Before every LaughFest event, an announcer reads aloud the message of Gilda's Club, emphasizing the positive health affects of having a good laugh during a time that can be traumatic.

"We are here to help people navigate that, find their new normal and have resources to work with," said Roehm. "So the work of Gilda's Club can impact everybody and anybody in our community."

Over the past five years, LaughFest has raised about $1,000,000. The funds raised are now amount to 12 percent of total operating costs for Gilda's Club.

As for who will be headlining in 2016, don't expect any spoilers just yet.

"I love when people ask who is coming at this time of year, because we honestly can't tell you that yet, because we are not into all of those details," said Roehm.

Gilda's Club also said that it's not too late to voice your opinion on what comedians should take part in this year's LaughFest. The group encourages people to post their suggestions on their Facebook and Twitter pages.

LaughFest 2016 will take place between March 10-20. The exact venues and, of course, headliners are yet to be announced.