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Laughing For A Cause

If laughter is the best medicine, why not use it to help ease the pain of cancer? The Sarah Grace Foundation (SGF) is inviting people to do just that, with their 11th annual Night of Laughter. The event is one of the organization’s biggest fundraisers of the year and proceeds go toward their mission of helping children who have cancer and their families.  

The event brings together four comedians— Isaacs and Baker, John Consoli, Hiram Kasten, and Lori Grasman, with event host Rick Morgan, for a light-hearted evening of food, raffles, and laughter, all for a good cause.

“It’s a great show, great environment and good meal,” said SGF president and co-founder, Matthew Weippert. “It’s a good value for a night out, because you’re getting a great show and sit down dinner, and supporting a charity.”

Matthew and his wife, Marissa, started the SGF after their 11-year-old daughter died from Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in the fall of 2002. The foundation has not only helped keep Sarah’s memory alive, but it has helped thousands of families suffering through the pain of childhood cancer, an experience the Hicksville residents unfortunately knew too well.

“We wanted to do something to honor Sarah’s memory. We wanted to make sure she was never forgotten and help people in the same position she had been in, and families in the same position we had been in,” said Matthew.

While Sarah was sick, the family had a lot of help from the community; however, when they started the foundation in the spring of 2003, they discovered many other families did not have that same type of support. They also knew from firsthand experience that cancer didn’t just affect the child suffering, but siblings in the family as well. With that knowledge, the organization not only helps the child diagnosed with cancer, but the entire family.

“We try to do whatever we can to ease the burden of the family and help the child,” said Matthew. “We want to provide an easier quality of life while they’re traveling down this path.”

The organization has helped thousands of families over the past 11 years, whether it’s through their gift card program at Thanksgiving, annual holiday party at Cohen Children’s Medical Center, burial assistance, or financial aid to help with hospital bills. They have several core programs such as the Bead program, where a child will receive colorful beads and charms that each represent a different aspect of medical care to chronicle their journey, and supply new books for book carts at three local pediatric cancer centers. They’ve also provided thousands of newly diagnosed patients with “Escape Hatches”—gift boxes designed to look like an old fashioned suitcase that come with a pillow case, disposable camera, puzzle books, mad libs and more.

“When they’re getting all this bad news thrown at them, we want kids to be able to escape to the world of being a child again,” said Matthew.

The SGF is also the only New York metropolitan area sponsor of Gabe’s Chemo Duck program, which provides stuffed animals to children that can demonstrate how to use feeding tubes, ports and be a source of comfort.

The volunteer organization is run by about 15 people, and Matthew says the biggest challenge is recruiting more faithful volunteers. The second is funding.

“Everything is tight today,” said Matthew. “Fundraising is certainly more challenging than in the past.  Because of that we try to be careful about our budgeting. I never want to be in a position where I have to say I don’t have the money and can’t do it.”

The 11th annual Night of Laughter will be held April 11 at 7:15 p.m. at the Milleridge Cottage Tickets are $75, which includes dinner and the show. For tickets, call 516-433-9745. For more information on the Sarah Grace Foundation visit www.thesarahgracefoundation.com