Laugh 'Til it Cures
NO LAUGHING MATTER
And that's precisely what Rothberg did. A diagnosis of Stage IV cancer in a 35 year old is quite serious. The younger the individual, the faster it spreads. Rothberg used humor to alleviate her daughter's fears and the realization that laughter made them both feel better led them to schedule a daily appointment to laugh.
The idea of using humor to help others through sickness was born on the first day of Rothberg's treatment in 'chemo-chair.' After noticing the depressing surroundings, she thought it would be beneficial to bring some joy to the treatment center. Then more thoughts of how to help others through humor came to her.
Many things make Rothberg fit for the task of showing others how to integrate humor into their lives. The most obvious is her sense of humor and positive outlook. One of her and daughter Lauriel's humorous creations, is a rap song about her baldness. It begins:
Chemo Chemo should be illegal,
Made my mom bald as an eagle.
She not only possessed a strong sense of humor, a positive outlook, and the vision of how to help others, she had creative and organization skills that were also important. These she learned from two former occupations: entertainment industry producer and teaching consultant. The ideas just flowed.
After forming the outline of how ComedyCures would help those affected by serious disease through humor, Rothberg needed to make others aware of her mission. The first public exposure for ComedyCures was through PNC Bank, where people were asked to make a monetary donation to the charity or deposit a joke in the "joke bank."
The first Comedy Cures major event was a weeklong laugh-a-thon at Lauriel's school, J. Spenser Smith Elementary School in Tenaly. The students shared the benefits of laughter with their family and friends asking them for jokes. Then they took to the microphone, telling jokes and riddles for one full day.
A product of that laugh-a-thon is a CD, produced with the help pf Grammy Award winning producer/engineer Frank Filipeti who recorded the jokes with a portable recording studio donated by Right Track Recording, a Manhattan based studio. Profits from the sale of this CD will go toward the production of more CDs to be given free to patients in hospitals and treatment centers around the country.
Rothberg and Lauriel begin every day with a joke and wanted to help others do the same. "A gentle reminder to laugh," is how Rothberg describes the foundation's free joke line.
"We felt it would help others, particularly when they felt sad, lonely or nauseated."
THE LAUGH'S ON US
A supporter of ComedyCures tracked down the owner of the 1-888-HA-HA-HA-HA number and paid for the first six months. Professional comics have donated their time and material and donations have kept the line open.
These ComedyCures activities introduced the organization to the Bergen County community and people began seeking out comedy programs from Rothberg. She was asked to create a special program for Camp Dream Street, a free, weeklong camp offered at the Tenafly JCC for children with cancer and blood disorders and their siblings.
The Camp Dream Street program included a joke fest and a laugh symphony. Comic from Manhattan donated their time Angelica and Russ Berrie donated stuffed bears for all the campers.
Then others recognized the value of the organization and wanted to help.
One day Rothberg got a phone call to go to New York City because a big surprise was their waiting for her. The surprise was comic Jackie Mason, who volunteered to d a private night to raise money for ComedyCures. The event, held at the Women's Club of Englewood, drew about 80 major Bergen County philanthropists.
For her outstanding contribution the society, Rothberg is receiving recognition from other organizations. This year she received the Russ Berrie Making a Difference Award; and in October, along with fellow recipient, actor James Gandolfini, she will receive the October Women's Award for her efforts in raising awareness and money for breast cancer research.
"What began as a local charity has quickly grown [outside this area]. There's great demand to make this program available [to many] and I'm working with Bergen County business people and philanthropists to devise a strategic growth plan so we can meet the enormous need," says a now healthy Rothberg.
Whether it's a donation to support the laugh line, participating in the "Gift of Laughter" program, or helping to make a joke book for patients, you can be a part of ComedyCures by calling 201-727-1770.
|Comedy Cures is a 501(c)3 tax exempt, non-profit organization. Copyright ©2004 The Comedy Cures Foundation. All rights reserved.
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