by Tyler Lecceadone
Gilda’s LaughFest, the nation’s only 10-day community-wide festival of laughter, attracted attendees from across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom during its fifth annual event. LaughFest officially kicked off on March 5 with an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the most people wearing paper crowns.
Preliminary numbers indicate that more than 45,000 individuals attended LaughFest’s more than 270 ticketed and free events at 49 venues in Grand Rapids, Lowell and Holland. During the 10 Day event the festival featured over 750 artists and attracted visitors from 644 U.S. zip codes. In total, LaughFest tracked attendees from 34 states, Canada and the United Kingdom.
“We are so grateful for the support that our community provides by coming out and enjoying the festival and learning about the important role laughter plays in emotional health,” said Wendy Wigger, president, Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids.
“Our community, our partners and our sponsors have been vital in helping us raise awareness of our mission and contribute donations necessary for continuing the work
done by Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids. This would not be possible without that type of support and I want to say thank you on behalf of the entire Gilda’s Club organization.”
While LaughFest officials are still determining the overall economic impact on the community for 2015, they have announced the funds raised through the “High Five” community match campaign. During LaughFest, and through the month of March, the campaign raised $40,610. For each five dollars donated to the campaign by individual donors, Amway Corporation matched each donation, up to $25,000. This allowed LaughFest to surpass its $50,000 “High Five” campaign goal by $15,610.
“Amway is honored to be able to donate the full amount offered during the ‘High Five’ community match campaign,” said Todd Woodward, vice president of
communications at Amway.
“It is important that the community understand that there are resources available for individuals who are struggling with emotional health needs. We are delighted that the funds will be used for children’s programming offered through Gilda’s Club.”
Proceeds and donations from LaughFest support free emotional healthcare programs for children and adults living with cancer, grief and loss through Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids. Proceeds from the event account for 10 -15 percent of the Club’s annual operating budget.