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Monday, January 25, 2021

Chuckles for charity

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Helping Hands for Freedom (HHFF) was formed to provide support for military children of the fallen, wounded or deployed.

On Memorial Day weekend, HHFF is going above and beyond their mission of making people feel good and partnering with comedians who’s job is to make people laugh. HHFF will host Luenell “The Uncut Diva” and Friends comedy show, May 24 at the Old National Theatre. The show begins at 9 p.m. Tickets are $25 and $40.

“One of the things we found out is that most people forget to laugh in their time of sorrow. We try to do comedy shows to let people know that if you laugh, you can heal,” said Darin Fishburn, CEO of Helping Hands for Freedom.

Luenell “The Uncut Diva” and Friends comedy show is also the first in a series of shows that will take place across the country promoting HHFF’s cause.

“It’s nothing like ‘Naptown!’ That’s why I wanted the first show to be in my hometown,” said Fishburn, who is the uncle of Jason Fishburn, an Indianapolis police officer shot during a confrontation with a murder suspect. “I know how this community comes together and I know they love their country. I want to reach out and give Indianapolis the show of a lifetime for what they’ve done for me and my family and what they do for the community.”

Fishburn thought hosting a comedy show on Memorial Day weekend was the perfect opportunity to raise awareness about issues military families face. He also knows how important the Indy 500 is to the community, but wants to shift people’s focus more toward what the weekend is truly about, a time of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. armed forces.

Patrick Shannon, founder of HHFF certainly appreciates the recognition. In 2006, while serving in the U.S. Army as a sergeant in Iraq, he was hit with an explosive device. Shannon lost his vision in one eye, suffered nerve damage to his left leg and now deals with moderate traumatic brain injuries.

He noticed that while there were certainly programs that helped wounded soldiers, more was needed to help their families while soldiers healed. He wanted to start an organization to address the issue.

He is excited about the upcoming comedy show and hopes people will begin to take more notice of military issues.

“This show brings a whole different perspective to what soldiers and their families go through,” said Shannon.

What also makes this comedy show special is all the comedians appearing in the show care deeply about military children and the challenges they face when a parent is lost to the war, wounded or deployed.

Appearing in the show will be Juan Villareal, who has been an opening act for celebrity comedian Cedric the Entertainer and has also been featured on the Carlos Mencia Tour; Marcus Combs, Def Comedy Jam alum and host of the evening’s show; Cory Fernandez from BET’s One Mic Stand hosted by celebrity comedian Kevin Hart; opening act Ron “The Clownn” Anderson; and local and disabled comedian Robert “Sweaty Hands” Day.

Headlining the show is comedian, actress and singer, Luenell. Best known for her breakthrough role as the “hooker with the heart of gold” in the comedy “Borat,” Luenell is recognized by both mainstream and urban portions of the population. Her two-year tour and DVD appearances in “Katt Williams American Hustle” have created an almost cult-like following.

In 2012 she appeared in three No.1 feature films: “Think Like a Man” based on Steve Harvey’s best-selling book; 3D animated hit “Hotel Transylvania”; and “Taken 2” with Liam Neeson. She also starred in the comedy “That’s My Boy” featuring Adam Sandler.

Although HHFF’s mission focuses on kids and families, this is not a family comedy show. Fishburn said this was worth the risk because in promoting their cause they want to showcase that in life’s difficulties there is room for laughter. Each comedian will also bring a diverse audience, which he feels is a great way to remind various populations of the struggles military families face.

Proceeds from the evening will benefit HHFF’s Life Enrichment Programs, Life Needs Programs and the new “Dream Chaser” program specifically for children of fallen soldiers.

“You’re going to laugh, you’re going to have a great time and it’s for a great cause,” said Fishburn.

For corporate sponsorships and VIP tickets, call (317) 273-9727 or (317) 557-4962. For additional show information, call the Old National Theatre at (317) 231-0000 or visit oldnationalcentre.com. For more information about Helping Hands for Freedom, visit helpinghandsforfreedom.org.

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