Comedy 4 Cancer to return with show April 11

Mike Stanley, Heather Jay H and Ken Witzgall to perform at fundraiser in Clinton Township

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published March 22, 2017

 The Comedy 4 Cancer event April 11 in Clinton Township will take place on the two-year anniversary of the death of JD Marshall’s 13-year-old daughter, Stephaine. Marshall has raised thousands of dollars for pediatric cancer patients and their families through the comedy events and the “A Mission of Love” charity.

The Comedy 4 Cancer event April 11 in Clinton Township will take place on the two-year anniversary of the death of JD Marshall’s 13-year-old daughter, Stephaine. Marshall has raised thousands of dollars for pediatric cancer patients and their families through the comedy events and the “A Mission of Love” charity.

Photo provided by JD Marshall

WARREN — After JD Marshall lost his 13-year-old daughter, Stephaine, to cancer in 2015, he turned his grief into action and immediately set about accomplishing a list of goals in her memory.

He turned her website into a charity, made that charity fly and used it to promote four comedy fundraisers aimed at easing the burdens faced by the families of pediatric cancer patients. 

Through the generous work inspired by his love for Stephaine, Marshall has been able to provide gifts for kids battling cancer.  Through the charity, “A Mission of Love,” and four Comedy 4 Cancer fundraising shows over the last year, he’s given thousands of dollars to families struggling to balance household bills with the costs of treatment.

What he probably hasn’t done is taken time for himself to deal with his own grief. 

Marshall said that’s coming after the last of the first four Comedy 4 Cancer fundraisers, set for April 11 at the Imperial House on Groesbeck in Clinton Township, on the second anniversary of Stephaine’s death. All proceeds will benefit the family of a 9-year-old Warren girl battling a brain tumor, and the family of a 4-year-old boy who died after a battle with cancer. 

“It’s two years after we lost our daughter, five days before the one-year anniversary of Comedy 4 Cancer,” Marshall said. “At my daughter’s funeral, I had a bucket list: to take her website and turn it into a nonprofit charity, to make it a 501(c)(3), and then make it into an event.”

The work Marshall has done through A Mission of Love would undoubtedly make Stephaine proud. He’s giving monthly gifts to pediatric cancer patients. The Comedy 4 Cancer shows have all benefited cancer patients and their families.

In December, Marshall gave Tracy Pagel, of Kentwood, and her family nearly $4,000 and Christmas presents for her three children, including Maddie, 6, who has been battling cancer since she was 4 months old. 

“We’ve dealt with a lot of stressors and struggles every day, as pretty much any cancer family (has). They have a lot of stress,” Pagel said. “A lot of people don’t understand all the struggles they go through. He took his personal experience with his daughter and turned it into a positive thing and helped families like ours, to raise money to help with the daily struggles. 

“It’s amazing. He’s done some amazing work, and we’re grateful for what he’s helped us out with,” Pagel said. 

Comedian Paolo Busignani lost his older brother to cancer. He was 10 and his brother was 12 when he died. 

Busignani was part of the Comedy 4 Cancer show in Warren last September.

“It was something another comedian mentioned to me, and then I met JD and I read up on A Mission of Love. When he told me all about it, I had to do it,” Busignani said. “I can definitely relate to them.”

While there’s certainly nothing funny about cancer, he said comedy was the only thing that made him feel better when his brother got sick. He said he will share some of his own painful experiences with the audience in a way that makes them laugh and hopefully helps them to cope with childhood cancer, which is certainly among the worst of all possible subject matters.  

“There’s always hope. Until the end, there’s always that,” Busignani said. “From my side, I really developed a lot of empathy that I don’t know if I would have otherwise had. It changes your perspective on a lot of things. You learn to appreciate your life and appreciate the things around you.

“JD, I’ve got to know him pretty well over the last half of the year, and what he’s done is an absolutely incredible thing. I have three kids, and I know something like that would devastate me. What he’s done is absolutely amazing. I’ve done a lot of charity shows. This one is my favorite, by far. I love doing it,” Busignani said. 

After the show April 11, Marshall said he plans to continue supporting families and providing monthly gifts while on a short hiatus from doing events this summer. He plans to bring Comedy 4 Cancer back in September for its biggest show yet, to coincide with Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Until then, he said he’s getting ready to confront his own grief before he can move forward again. 

“It’s time to take a step back and reflect and remember, and think about my daughter, and start letting the healing begin for myself,” Marshall said. 

The fourth Comedy 4 Cancer show, featuring performances by Mike Stanley, Heather Jay H and emcee Ken Witzgall, is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. April 11 at the Imperial House, located at 34701 Groesbeck Highway in Clinton Township. It’s an adults-only performance. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets cost $15 at the door and $10 in advance online at comedy4cancer.com.