Project Happiness

“Project Happiness,” New Era, July 1972, 28

Project Happiness

Project Happiness is real happiness, and the Salt River Valley of Arizona saw some of the most alive kind of happiness during a recent weekend that it is likely to see for a long time to come. The Student Association of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints joined hands with the Primary Children’s Hospital in a program that can give the future to a child who has no future. More than ten thousand youths, parents, and leaders worked to raise some $16,000.00 for the Primary Children’s Hospital.

How did these young people make Project Happiness a success?

“Well, you make about a million phone calls,” said Tom Hale. “I’ve grown tremendously in my ability to talk to people because of my responsibility with this Project Happiness program.”

“Mailing out flyers helped get the message around to all members in the area,” said Bill Suman, “and probably was the greatest single thing we did that helped successfully communicate our message.”

The greatest challenge was proper communication.

John Naegle, president of one student association, said, “We tried to get as much media coverage as possible. We appeared on several local talk shows, on radio programs, and we arranged for announcements in local newspapers. We think this kind of exposure really paid off.”

The heartbeat of Project Happiness was the sound and spirit of the Grand Land Singers. They gave up their individual Easter vacations to give their time and talents. In five days they presented thirteen colorful performances that brought standing ovations time and time again. This Latter-day Saint Group—although many of the performers are nonmembers—came from their home base in southern California. They have traveled through most of the United States, have received many awards, and have been invited to perform at the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. In addition, the group is doing a great missionary work for the Church.

Bob Emmons, public relations manager for the group, commented, “The group is now directly responsible for more than sixty baptisms and probably many more indirectly. One girl in the group was converted and baptized, and she in turn converted her whole family of nine.”

President Paul H. Dunn of the First Council of the Seventy brought special greetings from the First Presidency. There were many other interesting and talented people who helped make Project Happiness a tremendous success.

Don Lind, a Latter-day Saint astronaut and back-up pilot for NASA’s Skylab program, gave a great deal of spiritual insight and interesting technical information in his “Science and Your Future” clinic.

Brother Lind said, “All of us, at one time or another, will face occasions when we are desperately and tragically alone, as was Neil Armstrong when, on the first Apollo flight to the moon, he had to manually fly the lunar module out of a large crater about the size of the Los Angeles coliseum. We will all face challenges like these, and we must prepare now to meet them.”

Lovely Miss Karen Herd was also a participant in the success of Project Happiness. She brought a sweet spirit to the opening of the affair that remained through the three-day conference. Karen was first runner-up to Miss America and was Idaho’s Woman of the Year.

Johnnie Whitaker, honorary chairman of the Endowment Committee of Primary Children’s Hospital and star of motion pictures and the popular television series Family Affair, was a favorite at the Project Happiness benefit show.

Jeff Congdon and Dick Nemelka, former professional and college basketball stars, conducted a participation-type basketball clinic that gave the young men of the Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Mesa area a chance to play basketball with a couple of the best.

Their counsel? “Be a winner in whatever you do.”

On the last night the young people of the student associations in the Salt River Valley areas displayed the spirit and happiness that come from helping others. They also exhibited the strength and unity of the gospel, as hundreds of students and their parents locked arms and sang “God Be with You Till We Meet Again” as the first phase of an international Project Happiness came to a close.

President Paul H. Dunn said, “I testify to you that what you are doing—this Project Happiness—is one of the finest things that I have ever heard of, and I salute you young people for the work that you are doing.”

Photos by Lowell Durham, Jr.

Dick Nemelka and Jeff Congdon; Johnny Whitaker; Miss Karen Herd

Arizona delegates; President Paul H. Dunn of the First Council of the Seventy; Alfredo Ramirez