Established in 2003 by Pam and Steve Wilson, the Laughter Arts & Sciences Foundation came to be after three years of World Laughter Tour programming revealed many individuals who wanted to promote the benefits (therapeutics) of laughter, but did not have the financial resources to take courses, buy books, or buy materials for various projects.
World Laughter Tour (WLT) convened the first International Symposium on Laughter in 2003 in Kissimee, Florida. 125 people attended form 14 countries. Emerging from that symposium, two strong energies propelled the LASF notion:
Pam and Steve discovered that the teacher was paying $80 per trip out of her own pocket for rental of a school bus . Why? The school board ruled that only a school bus could be used to transport the kids, and there was no money in the budget for it. Pam and Steve decided right there during the symposium to establish a charity for raising money to pay for the trips from Frazier Elementary to Bethany Nursing Home. This plan was announced immediately, based on the principle of ‘build it and they will come’.
A few months later, it was built with the help of attorneys: The Laughter Arts & Sciences Foundation was established as a full-fledged non-profit charity (501.c.3).
In the time to follow, a mission was devised, an Advisory Board was formed, and a scholarship grant program was established. Applications could be obtained from the website, then were reviewed by a scholarship committee. As Fundraising began, one of the first significant donations came from 2 WLT Certified Laughter Leaders (CLLs), who were veteran service personnel. This was followed by a scholarship established to honor the memory of the 31-year-old son of another CLL, who died in 2001 in the attack on the World Trade Center. Donations are solicited with every online purchase from World Laughter Tour. Most donations to the foundation have come from CLLs as part of their annual certification renewals.
Eventually, the grants program expanded from educational projects to materials and other supports for relevant projects. In 2013, LASF unveiled a program of endorsing worthy projects to promote awareness of laughter as a powerful part of the “human tool box”. These are called Starfish Projects, and can be viewed on the site, with encouragement to donors to earmark funds for their favorite projects.
Pam and Steve have overseen the development of the LASF website, and continue to provide all the administrative support for LASF: office space, letterhead, phone, postage, bank account, etc. This is not their first endeavor with charity; their family spirituality is steeped in the Jewish concept of tzedakah, or charitable giving. In adddition, their shared background in boy scout & girl scout values of helping, especially the needy has fueled their passion for this important work. They have also been long supporters of social and human services, especially through the establishment and ongoing participation with the Stephen H. Wilson Scholarship Fund at Columbus State Community College,
The need remains great. The cause is more worthy than ever. Since the economy tanked in 2008, the need for financial assistance for worthy projects has increased dramatically. The need for more laughter in the world is greater than ever.