Guest speaker bringing message of hope and healing through laughter

When times get tough, laughter can lighten the load.

That’s the core of an inspirational message national speaker and humorist Brenda Elsagher of Minneapolis, Minn., brings Thursday to Alpena.

Nearly 150 people already have signed up for Elsagher’s program presented by Friends Together. The evening begins at 5:30 p.m. with an appetizer and beverage bar, followed by her talk at 7 p.m. at the APlex. Cost is $10 per person.

“Through Brenda’s stories and experiences, she motivates and inspires,” said Friends Together Director Judy Burns. “This program is for anyone. Life can be difficult. No matter what the challenge is, you can find humor in your life.”

Elsagher didn’t start speaking in public until age 40 when she first learned how to become a comic. After winning a comedy contest, her story got covered in the newspaper, not only because she won the contest but because she had been dealing with the after effects of colorectal cancer while she attending comedy classes.

Elsagher first thought that comedy was her passion, but she soon discovered that public speaking came from the heart. The combination of the two now makes her relatable to audiences and able to show how everyone can laugh in the face of adversity.

The winner of the Twin Cities Funniest Person Contest, Elsagher has authored four books, including “I’d Like to Buy a Bowel Please,” “Bedpan Banter,” “It’s in the Bag and Under the Covers” and “If the Battle is Over, Why Am I Still in Uniform?”

Burns planned Thursday’s program, entitled Hope and Healing Through Laughter, because in her everyday work with Friends Together she sees firsthand the need for humor to help people get through their difficult times.

“As our programs and services increase dramatically, I am so aware of the importance of joy to lift spirits,” Burns said. “It’s really a coping mechanism to get through the tough spots.”

Burns strives to include plenty of joy and laughter in the various support groups offered locally at Friends Together.

“Bringing a sense of humor in helps you navigate,” she said, adding that clinical studies show there are healing benefits to laughter.

Friends Together offers a special event every two years with top tier presenters like Elsagher as a way to give something back to the community for the support given. Besides the public presentation on Thursday, Elsagher also is scheduled to give a talk to the medical community. On Wednesday at 6 p.m., also at the APlex, she will address Humor and Healing from the Patient’s Perspective.

“Brenda will talk about the importance of being lighthearted. This is for the medical profession to help them be aware that humor softens the situation,” Burns said.

Continuing education credits are offered for Wednesday’s presentation. Cost to attend is $30 for medical professionals and $15 for students.

In addition to Friends Together, the event is supported by Linn Energy, Hospice Advantage, ACC Nursing Association and Community Foundation of Northeast Michigan (Women’s Giving Circle).

Reservations to either talk are preferred for planning purposes, but not required. To register for the public program on Thursday, call Friends Together at 356-3231.

To register for the health care professionals program on Wednesday, call Alpena Regional Medical Center at 356-8124.