While the annual Laughs 4 Life may be a fun and relaxing night out for many, to founder Kent Oliver it’s that, plus much more.
Laughs 4 Life found its way into the life of Oliver in 2015, when at the age of 34 he was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. After months of procedures, chemo, and treatment locally at the Forrest General Cancer Center, as well as the Mayo Clinic, Oliver underwent a stem cell transplant at Vanderbilt University, which has greatly improved the long-term outcome for him, his wife, Candace, and two daughters, Charlotte and Anna.
“I'm pleased to say that I am more than four years out from the transplant, living comfortably with maintenance therapy, and enjoying life with my family in Hattiesburg,” said Oliver, who is thankful for the city and the amazing community of friends and family who have been so supportive of this night of laughter, but has also provided hope to many.
Because of the support since the inaugural show in 2016, more than $450,000 has been raised for cancer research and patient-focused initiatives in the non-profit’s beneficiary organizations – The International Myeloma Foundation, CURE Childhood Cancer, the Mayo Clinic, and the Forrest General Cancer Center.
And while laughter may be the best medicine, it’s Laughs 4 Life that’s brought that healing touch to the Saenger Theater for four years with comedians Frank Caliendo (2016, 2019), Bill Engvall (2017) and Tig Notaro (2018). It couldn’t have been possible without the supporters and sponsors who have invested their time and money to give life to this worthy cause.
That includes a group known as the Crusaders for Cancer – a group of 38 people who have committed a total of $20,000 to the cause.
To date, the impact Laughs 4 Life has made has been felt at home and across the country.
“Too many of us are impacted by cancer and other conditions, and many times the laughter in our lives is all too often silenced,” Oliver said. “Laughs 4 Life is intended to generate smiles and laughter throughout our wonderful Hub City community in a way we've never seen before. It's also a way to say thank you to the friends, family, caregivers, and supporters out there who have made my personal journey tolerable. But most importantly, it's a way to benefit incredible organizations who are making highly tangible differences through research and patient experience.
“The bar has been raised after three fantastic years of laughter and giving, but we're excited to yet again try to clear that bar with a night of incredible comedy and fundraising. We welcome the community to join us again as we collectively improve the future outlook for so many facing cancer and other health conditions inside our state and beyond.”
LAUGHS 4 LIFE IMPACT
• Fully funded multiple research grants through the International Myeloma Foundation (this will be our fourth with a total contribution to myeloma research in excess of $300K)
• Tumor sequencing for 19 children who have experienced relapse through research at CURE Childhood Cancer
• Financial support for the launch of the Patient Navigation program at Forrest General Cancer Center
• Funding for Palliative Care seminars for providers within Forrest General Hospital
• Funding of new equipment for the Radiation Oncology department within Forrest General that allows for more comfort and precision in treating breast cancer
• Funding to support an additional research clinician at the Cancer Center locally to assist in conducting world class research right here in the Pine Belt
• Funding for metatstatic breast cancer research at Mayo Clinic ($25K).
This year’s show features Frank Caliendo, a veteran of television sketch comedy as a cast member on “Mad TV” and starring in his own series “Frank TV.” Caliendo has been a fixture on television for more than a decade. He has comedy specials with TBS and Comedy Central. His live shows are clean and family friendly. Keith Alberstadt will open for him.
Tickets can be purchased at laughs4life.com, the Saenger Box Office of eventbrite.com