Betty White in Grand Rapids Tuesday
Grand Rapids, MI (WZZM) - Out of all the comedians coming to LaughFest this month, Gilda's Club Grand Rapids asked comedian Betty White to entertain and amuse guests at their 10th anniversary dinner Tuesday night.
"And I'm terribly grateful for it," says Betty White.
The dinner at DeVos Place was the signature event of the 10 day Gilda's Place LaughFest. It's the party to actually celebrate their 10th anniversary.
The board wanted someone like Betty White on stage - someone with cancer experience who knows laughter is sometimes the best medicine.
"They would be able to resonate with our deeper message about why we are doing LaughFest and how important laughter is in a cancer, grief journey," says Gilda's Club director Leann Arkema. "She was on our list because her 3rd husband had cancer."
"Yes, my beloved husband Alan Ludden went through this," confirms White.
Alan Ludden died of cancer 30 years ago. At that time there were no Gilda's Clubs to help patients and their families cope.
"We didn't have anything like that so we held each other," says White. "We said we aren't going to be down about anything. We are going to think positively. I won't say it was our happiest year but we didn't waste a minute."
After comedian Gilda Radner died of cancer in 1989, Gilda's Clubs were organized in her memory in over two dozen cities.
"Grand Rapids is lucky to have one of the biggest and best," says Gilda's brother, Michael Radner. "Gilda wanted people to laugh. Gilda wanted people to be happy."
Betty White says it's difficult to make cancer jokes but humor can lighten the mood.
"It lifts that terrible burden of grief a little bit," she says. "Humor is hard to explain. A good laugh can release the stress. Can't erase the damage, but it can sure help."
With tickets going for a minimum $250, the anniversary dinner featuring Betty White raised thousands of dollars to finance Gilda Club Grand Rapids' free programs for cancer patients, their families and friends.