Clownin' around to help sick children

Published On: Apr 17 2013 09:20:51 PM EDT   Updated On: Apr 23 2013 06:20:00 AM EDT

A hospital can be a scary place for kids. Between the needle sticks, surgeries, and strangers, it’s no wonder many children don’t look forward to their visits. But sometimes, all it takes is a clown to turn a child around.

Every day, they put on face paint, red noses, and oversized shoes. But these clowns are not headed to the circus.

“Doctor Slappy” and “Doctor Monday” visit sick kids. The “Funnyatrics” clowns are hospital staff members and permanent fixtures. Five days a week, they make their rounds with one goal, make kids laugh!

“Once they start laughing, they feel better. There’s no way you can’t feel a little better if you’re laughing,” said Tiffany Riley, aka, “Dr. Slappy.”

Four-year-old cancer patient Stephen has had a rough morning, but some bubbles change everything!

“One of our challenges and our goals is to empower the child,” said Dick Monday, aka, “Dr. Monday.”

And it may do even more. Studies show laughter can lower blood pressure, reduce stress, improve alertness, and boost the immune system.

“You can see it. When the clowns enter the room and leave the room. The child is different,” explained Dr. David Podeszwa, at the Children’s Medical Center, in Dallas, Texas.

Podeszwa says the clowns are often paged when a child won’t eat or needs a shot.

“It’s a way of distracting them. It’s a way of putting them at ease,” explained Podeszwa.

Eight-year-old Amber needed some cheering up.

“Because I have seizures,” Amber said.

A few minutes with the clowns does the trick!

“It’s amazing. It helps pass the time,” said Amber’s Mother, Brandy Bailey.

“Doctor Slappy” and “Doctor Monday” are both veterans of Ringling Brothers Circus. Once a month, the clowns meet for an “emotional hygiene” session, where they talk about the difficult emotions they encounter while working with sick kids.