The overwhelming success of Gilda Club’s first LaughFest in March 2011 meant for sure the cancer-support group would do it again. With 55,000 people attending last year’s ten-day marathon of funny people on stage, Gilda’s Club leaders knew they had a good thing going. Even more important, the original LaughFest raised $330,000 to help fund West Michigan’s three Gilda’s Clubs in Grand Rapids, Lowell, and Holland.
When Gilda Radner, Saturday Night Live’s beloved comedian, died in 1989, her family and friends honored her by starting clubs around the country where cancer patients and families could gather in community. Three Grand Rapids cancer survivors – Twink Frey, Deb Bailey, and Susan Smith – decided their city needed a Gilda’s Club too.
Their organizing energy led to Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids opening its signature red door in 2001. Peter Wege, whose mother and father had died of cancer, joined these women’s cause with a major capital gift. The Wege Foundation has continued to be a strong supporter of Gilda’s.
Ticket information about LaughFest’s March 8-18, 2012, lineup is available at laughfestgr.org/. Big names like Whoopi Goldberg, Kevin Nealon, and Martin Short headline the 60-person cast performing in 200 different locations – half of them free to the public. This year Gilda’s Club has scheduled even more family-friendly entertainers than they had last March.