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Gilda Radner Laugh Fest

I recently had the honor to be a speaker at Gilda’s Laugh Fest in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The late Gilda Radner, of Saturday Night Live fame, was born in Michigan and there are now several Gilda’s Clubs across the nation, named after her.

These houses offer all kinds of free programs for people living with cancer and support for their families too. They have groups, lectures, workshops, craft days, simple silliness, and every kind of support for body, mind and spirit.

The Gilda’s Club is Grand Rapids is set on a beautiful property in a converted old farmhouse. They have a wonderful facility that is homey, welcoming and peaceful. The lower level is Noogieland, an enchanted place for kids. The other levels are rooms that you just want to sink into and stay a while. The library made me swoon. They have a large community room with a loft for exercise groups and parties.

We remember Gilda Radner as one of SNL’s original Not Ready for Primetime Players. As stated on the Gilda’s Club website, she had more to say. Besides all those great funny characters from Emily Litella to Roseanne Rosannadanna, she played another role, a part she called “The Invisible Cancer Woman” in the saga of “The Adventures of the Independent Baldheaded Chemo Patient.” When Gilda was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1986, she wrote about this and other experiences living with cancer in her book, “It’s Always Something.”

During her treatment, Gilda became part of a cancer support community, and she wished that anyone dealing with cancer would be able to receive the kind of support she found there. After she died in 1989, Joanna Bull, her cancer therapist, and her husband, Gene Wilder, began to plan Gilda’s Club, a free cancer support community. The first Gilda’s Club opened in New York City in June 1995.

Gilda’s Clubs rely solely on charitable donations. Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids decided to go big in the fund – and fun – raising three years ago when they started the Laugh Fest. This is a 10-day festival that takes place across the whole city in various venues with national celebrities taking the stage.

I was honored to present the LaughterRx portion, how to implement humor and happiness into every day life. We can laugh and feel better, no matter what. The main stage headliner that night was Lewis Black, who my kids think is great. I now think so too.

I was also honored to be the emcee the following night at the actual Gilda’s Club for a program called “What’s Funny About That?” Comedians and musicians performed and club members took a turn at the open mic to share a funny story that has happened on their journey.

We all have challenges, and we all can learn to implement humor and happiness skills to make each day go smoother. Simply sharing a laugh lowers blood pressure and gets the feel-good healing chemical flowing throughout your body.

It’s in our power to face our challenges with a renewed attitude of hope and strength. Surround yourself with people who believe in the power of positivity. Do the basics of eating better, moving your body in some kind of exercise, and getting more sleep. Those simple tweaks alone will increase your energy and stamina, no matter if you are “healthy” or not.

The power of gratitude is the strongest force of all and I am incredibly grateful to be a part of an event that is using its power for good. Thank you.

(Kelly Epperson Simmons is an author/speaker/coach who helps people birth their books. Write info@kellyepperson.com or call toll free 888-637-3563.)

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