GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- With Laughfest now in full swing, don't be surprised if you run into people from across the country and the world over the next nine days. Laughfest's outreach is growing, and Gilda's Club is benefiting.
Word of mouth—call it a smile—is spreading further in Laughfest's fourth year. More people want to hear the jokes.
"We have people that are buying tickets this year from 35 states, plus Canada, and someone bought tickets from the United Kingdom, in England," said Gilda's Club President Wendy Wigger.
Wigger may have the free smile by the famous red telephone booth to thank. Or the one in Russia, Italy, or St. George Island. People are taking their smile on vacation.
"The Wall of China in Beijing, in Spain, Greece, London, all over the world," she said. "Which is cool because people say, 'I really like that, where it that from?'"
The smile's footprint is benefiting the people who walk through the red door at Gilda's Club.
"They're coming here not only for the cancer support for the individual that's diagnosed, but also for their family or friend," she said.
More people are now seeking grief support because of Laughfest's impact. While Wigger says they're thrilled to help, Laughfest doesn't generate enough money to do so. It's just 15% of their operating budget.
"It hasn't resolved all of our fundraising. I think some people may have that misnomer that 'wow it's so successful they don't need any contributions or donations.' That couldn't be further from the truth," she said.
So, in addition to buying merchandise and tickets, pack your smile the next time you head to Hollywood, or better yet, Barbados, as some people did. It might take a lot of positive coaching to convince that person to visit Grand Rapids with this weather though.
LaughFest has generated $750,000 for Gilda's Club in its first three years.
Wigger says it's too early to anticipate what this year's event could raise.
For more information on tickets: Laughfest.