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Claiming laughter is one of the best medicines, a local non-for-profit called The Giggle Box Project is presenting its first box of laughter this weekend. The first “GiggleBox” will be awarded to Owen Keene, who has autism and was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma last summer. As KSMU’s Shannon Bowers reports, Saturday’s event will not only serve as a fundraiser for Owen’s medical expenses, but coincide with his 10th birthday.
In January, seven months after being diagnosed with cancer, Owen took a turn for the worse and got very sick while undergoing treatment. His family and close friends promised that if Owen made it, they would throw him the biggest birthday party he had seen.
That promise is coming true, says Owen’s Mother, Brianna Keene. Over 400 people will gather this Saturday to celebrate Owen’s life.
“I don’t know how to explain it fully but there is something amazing about this process that we have been through and that Owen is still here and he is still the wonderful boy he is. We are just really lucky,” said Keene.
During the celebration, Owen will receive a “GiggleBox;” a cardboard box filled with imaginative and silly toys such as crayons, whoopee cushions and small games. Studies have shown that laughter is a source of health and well-being because the muscular exertions involved in producing laughter trigger an increase in endorphins. That, combined with play, makes the body feel good, says Susan Dempsy, executive director of the Giggle Box project. It’s part of the concept behind GiggleBox.
“In an effort to take their attention off the hard time they are going through after being diagnosed with cancer and to let their body’s stress be relieved by doing that. And let the body work with the doctors, nurses and other medicines they are taking to get rid of this thing,” said Demspey.
Keen hopes the Gigglebox will be a good play tool for all the drives they make up to St. Louis Children’s Hospital, where Owen receives his treatments.
“For Owen, he looks to his parents and the people around him to know how to respond to things. So even if we are going through a really difficult thing, we try to keep a positive attitude and we make things as fun as possible for him,” said Keen.
Owen will be undergoing treatment for another 15 months. His family remains positive about his recovery. So far the family has spent $825,000 in medical bills. To make a donation to Owen and his family, visit them on Facebook at “Join Owen’s Journey.”
For KSMU News, I’m Shannon Bowers.