Having raised almost $600,000 in the fight against cancer, Kent Oliver was recognized as this year’s Humanitarian of the Year by the Junior Auxiliary of Hattiesburg.
Oliver is founder of Laughs4Life, a philanthropic organization supporting cancer research and patient quality of life.
Each year, the Hattiesburg chapter recognizes an area individual who has shared his or her time and talents to enhance the community and its citizens through selfless acts of service.
Oliver accepted news of the humanitarian honor with modesty and thankfulness, noting his personal journey of adversity with a cancer diagnosis four years ago which gave him the idea to share light and laughter with those battling cancer as well.
“I’m incredibly honored to be recognized by Junior Auxiliary for this award,” Oliver said. “To be selected by this organization and those individuals who were past recipients of this award is very humbling to me. The community of Hattiesburg was so supportive of my family and me in our time of need. We wanted to give back and do something to be there for others in their time of need too.”
Laughs4Life is annual night of headlining comedy that brings hundreds of people together each year
In just four years, Laughs4Life has raised nearly $600,000 to further cancer research and enhance patient quality of life.
“The culture of Laughs4Life is simple,” Oliver said. “It’s a smile, and smiles can be very powerful things. As we talk about recognizing humanitarianism, a smile can do a lot, much more than people often realize, to help people deal with difficult circumstances.”
At 34 years of age, Oliver was diagnosed with a form of cancer called Multiple Myeloma. As a husband and father of two young girls, family and friends came to support him and his wife, Candace, during this unexpected journey. After months of treatment and a stem cell transplant, Kent persevered to gain his health back.
During this time, Oliver quickly realized how good it felt to laugh and understood the therapeutic need to laugh during a hard fight against cancer. He says his kids were 6 months and two-years-old at the time, and palliative care was something he also became very passionate about.
“Quality of life care is so important and managing significant illness to have a high quality of life while undergoing treatment became a huge priority to me,” Oliver said. “I wanted to continue being a dad the way I was before I got this diagnosis. My wife and I quickly realized we aren’t always promised a lot in life, so it is important to keep perspective and appreciate what we have. We learned first-hand that people are hurting and need support and hope as they battle cancer too,” Oliver said.
As the Junior Auxiliary Humanitarian of the Year, Oliver received a $500 grant to be donated to Laughs4Life.
“Through Laughs4Life, Kent’s humanitarian and financial contributions to cancer research and patient care are impressive and humbling,” JA President Mary Clayton Dunn said. “Kent is passionate about his family and community, and that fuels his desire to support cancer research and ensuring a high quality of life for patients undergoing treatments. It is our honor to acknowledge his humanitarian efforts as our recipient this year for the light and hope he shares with others,” Dunn said.
This past year, Laughs4Life raised $140,287 for cancer research with a portion of that money staying in Hattiesburg. The local impact of Laughs4Life includes providing financial support for patient navigation at Forrest General Cancer Center, palliative care seminars for Forrest General Health providers, and funding new equipment for the Radiation Oncology Department, which allows for more comfort and precision in treating breast cancer.
Additionally, with his fundraising help through Laughs4Life, the new patient and family wing of the Blaire E. Batson Hospital will provide smiles to both children and families through creative art therapy.
“A cancer diagnosis is something that stays with you throughout your life. With kids, it’s that realization that even with great healthcare options, with Batson and other providers doing a tremendous job, it’s still something that stays with them forever – both emotionally and financially,” Oliver said.