Cancer has taken the lives of many loved ones in John Olson’s life.
His friends, aunts and uncles, grandfather and other relatives suffered from the disease in some form. Even Olson’s own father was afflicted with lung cancer.
When his dad died from the disease in 2011, Olson was unaware of patient assistance programs in places like the June E. Nylen Cancer Center. In service to his dad, Olson, a Sioux City comedian, founded Cancer Sux Comedy Rox, an annual fundraising comedy show that benefits those in need of financial assistance during cancer treatment.
The first show — consisting of a chili supper and comedy show at The Chesterfield — raised a little over $1,200 to donate to the June E. Nylen patient assistance fund, all of which was made up of free-will donations.
“It was really special to me to be able to give back and to do something,” said Olson.
Now in its sixth year, Cancer Sux Comedy Rox will begin at 6 p.m. Saturday (Oct. 14) at Stoney Creek Hotel & Conference Center. Headlining the benefit is comedian and Sioux City native Don Reese with a featured performance by John Russell. Stand-up comic Drew Jr. will be hosting the event.
The Gary & Dani Show, an acoustic duo, will perform live music, followed by a presentation of the Linda (Reese) Feree Spirit Award and an appearance by the 501st Legion’s Central Garrison, an all-volunteer, international Star Wars costuming club.
“It has more of a Comic-Con feel to it,” said Olson. “There are different things going on in different rooms. It’ll all come together when the show starts.”
Looking back on the past six years, Olson is proud about what’s been accomplished by Cancer Sux Comedy Rox. The event’s most successful year occurred in 2014 and was held at the Marina Inn Hotel & Conference Center in South Sioux City.
“We packed in almost 800 people and raised just over $17,000,” said Olson. “It was our highest [attendance] and the highest amount raised.”
Over the past five years, Cancer Sux Comedy Rox has raised approximately $34,000 for cancer patients. For this year’s benefit, Olson is extending the event’s reach.
“We were lucky enough to be able to have most of our expense paid this year, so we’re able to give a lot more,” he said. “We’ll be helping out two families this year.”
Patty Richter and Bonnie Lapinskas and their respected families will be sharing the donation spread this year.
Olson said he hopes to raise somewhere between $14,000 and $15,000 at Cancer Sux Comedy Rox this year. Tickets are on sale at www.comedyrox.com for $20.