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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - The second year for LaughFest began Thursday, and though officials haven't put the final tally on the inaugural event, it proved to be a financial boon for Gilda's Club.
Last year, organizers estimate, the event earned about $300,000.
Organizers said they don't have the final numbers yet for 2011. 24 Hour News 8 was told the Club is still working on the final figures. Tax returns for non profits like Gilda's Club are not due to the IRS until May.
Organizers said last year's goal wasn't to raise money, but rather to raise awareness -- the same primary goal as this year. The money they earned went back to fund programming for the efforts Gilda's Club provides for those with cancer and their families.
It also allowed the group to restore some programs that were cut.
"For us, like many other charities and businesses, were hit hard by the downturn in the economy in 2008 and 2009, and LaughFest last year was actually able to get us back to just about pre-2008 levels," Director of Gilda's Club Leann Arkema said. "For us, the biggest success was building awareness about who we are and what our mission is. At the core of our mission, we're about emotional health and the important role that laughter plays in that."
As for this year, Gilda's Club estimates it is on track to see about 55,000 people attend the 10-day event.
Among them is Sherri Landstra. She headed to LaughFest Central on the first day to buy Sinbad tickets before they're gone.
"I didn't have an opportunity to go last year," she told 24 Hour News 8, "but I thought, 'It's right here in Grand Rapids. I gotta try it.'"
That's what Gilda's Club of Grand Rapids officials want.
Based on tax returns from the fiscal year ending in 2010, the charity was about $11,000 in debt on a accrual basis. An accrual basis effectively means a snap shot in time that can include costs of investments and properties.
However, Gilda's Club representatives said, it's more accurate to look at the finances on a cash basis. Using a cash based system, Arkema said they were between about $20,000 and $25,000 in the black.
A cash-based accounting subtracts money as it leaves, and adds money when it comes in, not before.
"During the economic downturn we did everything we could to keep our doors open," Arkema said. "We scaled back on some programs, all staff took a cut in pay. We became very, very lean. We were lean before, but we became more lean and LaughFest really has allowed us to get back to those pre-2008 levels."
Arkema said the pre 2008 levels have allowed them to reinstate programs they had to cut in the past.
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