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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., Jan. 31, 2013 - Gilda's LaughFest today announced the addition of three speakers to the LaughteRx Emotional Health Speaker Series. Vanessa King, Terri Tate and Kelly Epperson will speak on issues ranging from psychological well-being to the healing power of humor. This series is being presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and will take place at the Grand Rapids Art Museum.

"We are pleased to be partnering with Gilda's LaughFest by presenting the LaughteRx Emotional Health Speaker Series to the Grand Rapids community," said Jeff Connolly, vice president and president of west Michigan operations for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. "We believe in helping people live healthier lives, both physically and emotionally, and supporting the great work in the area of emotional health Gilda's Club provides to children and adults. LaughFest gives the community an opportunity to learn more about emotional health, while sharing the enjoyable experience with friends and family."

Other events and activities added to the LaughteRx schedule include: laughter yoga, Gilda's Clubhouse tours, and a free community showcase entitled "Gilda's Club: What's Funny About That," which gives Gilda's Club members, comedians, and people from the community an opportunity to share humorous stories as they tackle big things in life like cancer and grief.

"LaughFest is not only a great Festival, it also is promoting a deeper message," said Leann Arkema, president and CEO of Gilda's Club Grand Rapids and Gilda's LaughFest. "Emotional health and learning emotionally healthy ways to deal with the 'tough stuff' in life - like a cancer diagnosis or the death of someone you know - is key to our overall health. And, laughter is so important to our overall health - in good times and in bad. This is the legacy of Gilda Radner - even she needed to find her true joy and laughter during her cancer journey."

Vanessa King will speak at the LaughteRx Emotional Health Speaker Series on Monday, March 11 at 6 p.m. King's presentation will focus on the importance of laughter and happiness in individuals personal and professional lives. As a board member of Action for Happiness, the leading UK-based not for profit focusing on proactively building skills for psychological well-being and resilience, she takes an active role speaking on their behalf nationally and internationally, and translates psychological research into practical action for individuals, organizations and communities. She is trained as a facilitator on the University of Pennsylvania's Master Resilience Training Program for the U.S. Army; she is a master practitioner of New Economics Foundation's happy@work diagnostic and is a member of the UK Government's taskforce on employee engagement, Engage for Success.

Terri Tate will speak at the LaughteRx Emotional Health Speaker Series on Tuesday, March 12 at 6 p.m. Tate will talk about her personal cancer journey and the laughs she found along the way. A nationally recognized speaker, successful therapist, hypnotherapist and consultant, Tate was silenced by oral cancer in 1991. Doctors said she had a 2 percent chance of surviving the disease that cost her more than half of her tongue and lower jaw. Tate survived the cancer and reclaimed her voice. At the same time, she honed her storytelling skills and now hopes that lessons learned along her healing journey will shed light on the path for others.

Kelly Epperson will speak at the LaughteRx Emotional Health Speaker Series on Thursday, March 14 at 6 p.m. She will talk about personal happiness and how it impacts health and day to day living. Epperson, a former IRS agent, is an author, speaker, and coach who teaches how to use humor and how to be happy. She is the founder of the Happiness Club of Loves Park, IL, has written three books of her own, co-authored a book that went to #1 on Amazon and written 20 books for others, including NY Times best-selling authors. In addition to this work, Epperson writes a weekly newspaper column.

Laughter Yoga at LaughteRx will take place throughout the festival at the Grand Rapids Clubhouse. Laughter Yoga combines laughter with yoga breathing techniques Laughter is simulated as a body exercise in a group and turns into real and contagious laughter. The concept of Laughter Yoga is based on a scientific fact that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter. One gets the same physiological and psychological benefits.
• Friday March 8 at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.
• Monday March 11 at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.
• Wednesday March 13 at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.
• Thursday March 14 at 7 p.m.
• Friday March 15 at 10 a.m.
• Sunday March 17 at 3 p.m.

Tours of the two Gilda's Clubhouses (one in Grand Rapids and one in Lowell) will be held throughout the festival for interested parties. The tours will allow the public to more intimately get to know the programs in emotional healthcare offered at both locations, and have the opportunity to ask questions and get more information about the organization.
• Saturday March 9 from 1p.m. to 5 p.m. (Grand Rapids)
• Sunday March 10 from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. (Grand Rapids)
• Tuesday March 12 from 1p.m. to5 p.m. (Lowell)
• Saturday March 16 from 1p.m. to 5 p.m. (Grand Rapids)
• Sunday March 17 from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. (Grand Rapids)

Previously announced was the Spectrum Health LaughteRx Community Keynote featuring keynote speaker Bernie Siegel, MD with Scott Burton. LaughteRx, which was launched in 2012, features speakers and activities that highlight the health benefits of laughter and its importance in emotional health. Last year's featured keynote was Dr. Patch Adams.

LaughFest opens March 7 and runs through March 17. Entertainers who have already been announced for this year's event include: Jim Breuer, Bill Burr, Joel McHale, Gary Valentine, Justin Willman, the Nerdist Podcast Live!(co-hosted by Chris Hardwick, Jonah Ray and Matt Mira), Eric Andre, Neal Brennan, Loni Love, Pete Holmes, Fortune Feimster with Myq Kaplan and Michael Yo, W. Kamau Bell, the Shaquille O'Neal Presents... All-Star Comedy Jam, and others.

Gilda's LaughFest was created by a team at Gilda's Club Grand Rapids in 2011. In its inaugural year, more than 55,000 people attended the festival. Attendance for the second year of LaughFest was 56,294. More than 40,500 tickets were sold to the various events and visitors came from 25 states and Canada. The two-year income stream from the festival and the signature dinner events have totaled more than $540,000. All dollars raised support the free cancer, grief and emotional health programs offered through Gilda's Club Grand Rapids. Visit www.laughfestgr.orgor call 616-735-HAHA (4242) to learn more about Gilda's LaughFest.

Courtesy: LaughFest

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