Wed, Apr 4, 2012 09:54 AM
Traci Pena, of Rutland, celebrates her birthday each year by
laughing. "There's no better way to celebrate" she says and invites
everyone to join her as she celebrates her 50th at Outback Pizza in
Killington this year. The night will feature Vermont Diva comedian
Tracy Leithe Spenser, Saturday, April 7 at 7 p.m.
Pena is known to put on a great party and she hosts many throughout
the year, but it is not the party she loves most but the charitable
support attendees collectively give. All her events are all
fundraisers for her foundation, The Pink Ribbon Butterfly Project,
LTD (PRBP), which helps support those diagnosed with breast
"A lot of organizations raise money for cancer research, but
research doesn't do you much good once you've been diagnosed," says
Pena. PRBP is geared towards helping victims and their families
emotionally and logistically navigate treatment options that are
right for them.
"The generosity of support is overwhelming," she says. "Almost
everyone's life has been touched by breast cancer and folks
understand how much support is truly needed. Unless and until you
are diagnosed with breast cancer, you cannot begin to know just
what it takes to get through the day."
According to the American Cancer Society, there are more than 2.6
million breast cancer survivors in the United States. In 2012 it is
estimated that 226,870 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be
diagnosed in women and 2,190 new cases will be diagnosed in men. 1
in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.
While most people who are diagnosed survive, nearly 40,000 people
are projected to die from breast cancer in 2012 alone.
It's certainly a cause with diverse needs. Pena describes PRBP's
mission as "powered by a mother's legacy and fueled by a daughter's
commitment." Pena's mother died of breast cancer after a long
battle just after Pena turned six years old. Pena's life changed
drastically as a result. "After 45 years, I finally feel like I'm
on the right track. I know this is what I'm meant to be doing," she
said of her foundation work.
So why comedy? This doesn't seem to be a joking matter.
Pena explains, "PRBP's entire mission and work is built around the
idea that those affected by breast cancer should giggle and guffaw
everyday and have love and laughter at their disposal to assist in
their healing journey and promote a change in their perspective,"
she says. "Science has proven that laughter and a change in
perspective can greatly improve health and quality of life."
And you don't have to be happy to laugh, Pena teaches. "Laughter,
itself, is healing. You don't have to feel good or be happy, and
it's not about what's funny. I can teach you how to pretend to
laugh and you get the same physical, intellectual, emotional and
spiritual benefits from it."
Laughter, as a healing technique, has been studied extensively and
positive affects of such exercises have been widely
"The minute you can see the humor in a disaster or a trauma is the
minute you know you're going to get better… That's how you know you
have regained control," said Sandra Ritz, a public health doctor
and member of the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor, in
a USA today article entitled 'It hurts not to laugh.'
Allen Klein, author of Courage to Laugh, agreed: "Humor can help us
cope with anything."
Klein, is a self proclaimed "jollytologist." He developed his
theory of humor as a coping tool when his wife was diagnosed with
terminal cancer at age 34.
So perhaps laughter isn't as inappropriate after tragedies as most
adults think. If it's proven an aid to healing, we should embrace
And laughter benefits everyone, not just those in physical or
emotional pain, Pena insists. "If you need a break from stress,
worry, anxiety, fear of everyday life; just pretend to laugh…
you're mind will quiet and you'll feel the benefits," she
"I can't think of any better person to headline Ha Ha for the Ta
Ta's," said Pena. "The Divas are Vermont's only all-female stand-up
comedy group and Tracy is just wonderful. She also does a lot of
charity work with her comedy." But that's not all, Traci adds an
additional hook, "I will also do a bit for the introduction, but
that's a surprise…" Laughing with excitement, Pena anticipates the
her joy at the Ha Ha for the Ta Ta's fundraiser this
Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. North Star Lodge
& Resort is also offering room specials at $99 (+tax) for Ha-Ha
attendees. Advance tickets can be purchased at Reincarnation
Upscale Resale and Fabulous Finds on 86 River Street in Rutland or
by calling Traci at 417-7797 or Linda (at the Outback)