Healing Through Laughter
By Emily Bader, Bob Woodruff Foundation
This June, several of our Bob Woodruff Foundation (BWF) team members had the unique opportunity to watch our work come full-circle as BWF grantee Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP) hosted their third annual Combat to Comedy show. ASAP’s show provided a humorous outlet to express the frustrations and struggles of transitioning from military to civilian life.
Standing on stage, Sam Pressler shared his story of growing ASAP from a passionate college student’s innovative idea, to a full-fledged organization with various program offerings in just a few short years. As founder and executive director of ASAP, Sam talked about the power of artistic expression as a tool to facilitate healing in the veteran community. He welcomed to the stage Meg Harrell, BWF’s director of programs and partnerships, to share the foundation’s unique connection to that idea. Meg explained that shortly after Bob and Lee Woodruff established the foundation, they partnered with Andrew Fox and Caroline Hirsch of the New York Comedy Festival, to launch the first ever Stand Up for Heroes concert and comedy show.
Since 2007, Stand Up for Heroes has provided an evening of hope, healing and laughter for an audience of veterans, caregivers, and dedicated supporters. As our landmark fundraising event, Stand Up for Heroes allows the BWF Charitable Investments team to invest in best-in-class programs serving impacted post-9/11 veterans, service members, families, and caregivers.
In Spring 2018, the Bob Woodruff Foundation administered its first grant to Armed Services Arts Partnership, whose mission is to reintegrate veterans into their communities through the arts. ASAP’s range of services includes everything from a seven-week Comedy Bootcamp, to storytelling classes, to photography and pottery courses. The ASAP community provides a platform for veterans to express themselves, grow, and heal through humor.
One of those platforms is ASAP’s annual Combat to Comedy show, which highlights a handful of headliners and graduates of the Comedy Bootcamp program. This year, the New York City show featured headliners Roy Wood Jr., Janeane Garofalo, and Seth Herzog. The true stars of the show were veteran comics Benari Poulten, Maria Batdorff, Michael Carrasquillo, Fred McKinnon, and Meg Mitcham whose honesty and humor demonstrated the healing power of storytelling, community, and laughter.
BWF is pleased and honored to raise funds through our own evening of comedy and inspiration, and invest them in best-in-class programs like ASAP, who continues the important work of healing through laughter. Thank you, Armed Services Arts Partnership, for all you do to support our nation’s veterans, service members, and their families. And thank you to Benari, Maria, Michael, Fred, and Meg for sharing your stories with us onstage (and for keeping us laughing all the way home!).