Yesterday was April Fools Day. Unlike most people I do not celebrate with silly pranks and jokes, although have been a victim to my Dad’s many jokes in the past. I celebrate International Therapeutic Clown Day! In what I can only describe as my pre-mommy life I had the honour to spread smiles throughout Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children as Roo B. Toosday, the Therapeutic Clown. Going back even further in time I was the lucky one to visit numerous hospitals and senior’s residences as Dr. Hoppy-Go-Lucky with Windsor’s own Fools For Health.
I hear so often about the fear of clowns, and funny enough I was one of those people. But Clown Doctors and Therapeutic Clowns are different. They’re gentle, soft, musical, silly, and sometimes silent. They are kind, and patient and willing to go above and beyond for their patients.
There are programs world wide practicing Laughter Medicine. It is difficult to describe the joy I felt while working for these incredible non-profit organizations. There were moments of sorrow, but most days I left work feeling uplifted, and joyous. Most people are familiar with Patch Adam’s Gesundheit Institute made famous by the biographical film based on his life. He was a little different, being that he chose to study medicine and become and MD who happened to understand the value of laughter and healing. The companies I worked for employed actors, artists, professional clowns, classically trained dancers, nurses and professors. From what I know we never had an MD work as a clown. Dr. Hoppy would beg to differ, sincerely believing she was the best Doctor around, but she was far from a graduated Doctor of Medicine.
We did work closely with the medical staff, assisting in activities like Occupational & Physical Therapy, but truly our positions were to simply be there for the patients. Singing songs reminiscent of their youth or favourite lullabies of a small toddler. Scratching a ‘phantom limb’, as “You all look like goofs anyway – get that itch out for me!” and offering gentle humour. “So we have a two-for-one deal today. You pay us twice, we only do the surgery once!” I also blew a lot of bubbles! Oh the bubbles! Sometimes our position was support of a parent, or colouring Heaven for a young patient on her way there, or even just watching a beloved movie in a darkened room. We were friends, confidants, and humourous breaks for many people waiting patiently to just feel better.
When our patients were down and out we would hand out a smile on a stick. Everyone had days where they just cannot muster up a smile, so we gave them out! Just as McDonalds gives Smiles for Free – so did we!
Here are some to download. Print on cardstock, cut them out and then glue onto a thick Popsicle stick. Then hold it up over your mouth! You’ll be amazed how being just a little silly can bring a smile out even on the most cloudy day.