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Nonprofit, Healthy Humor, Uses Healthcare Clowning to Help Children.

Nonprofit, Healthy Humor, Uses Healthcare Clowning to Help Children.
Sourced Photo

Healthy Humor has been bringing laughter and joy to kids in need for many years, and it’s just getting started. 

The nonprofit was born after Micheal Christensen, one of the co-founders of The Big Apple Circus, grabbed a doctor’s coat before going on stage at a New York City Hospital event. He wanted to parody the most authoritative role in the hospital. It was this moment that led him to realize the need for healthcare clowning. 

Healthy Humor was officially founded in 2016 by three women, each a previous member of The Big Apple Circus, and the organization has since grown immensely. Now, Healthy Humor is present in sixteen hospitals. 

One of the co-founders and CEO, Dina Paul-Parks says “We do this work because hospitals are scary places for most people, even more so when you are a child. There is something magical about hearing laughter and utter delight ring through the halls of a place that is so often filled with pain and dread.”

One of the most important parts of the nonprofit are the Red Nose Docs. These aren’t doctors with medical degrees, but actors, dancers, and comedians. The Red Nose Docs, each with a wacky name like Dr. LOL or Dr. Ima Confused, visit children in the hospital and help doctors interact with these young patients in a positive way. 

Dina Paul-Parks says the doctors are often grateful for the bubbly presence of the Red Nose Docs. “They not only love it — they rely on it!  We make their jobs easier from a treatment compliant standpoint.  But we offer them emotional support as well. As critical members of the care team, we understand their exposure to and also absorb much of the trauma in the floors.  The joy we create on the floors is for everyone.”

There are hundreds of personal stories and examples of the Red Nose Docs helping kids through treatment and difficult days. From sitting on each other’s shoulders to help a patient complete their physical therapy to receiving an ear exam while blowing bubbles to show a toddler they can do the same, the Red Nose Docs spread light and laughter daily. 

Looking to the future, Paul-Parks says Healthy Humor has some big goals. “We would love to double the number of our hospital partners in the next five years, but we have also launched new initiatives beyond the hospital floors, including our Community Connections workshops, designed to help police officers and young people see each other in a new light and bond across their differences. We intend to develop a program that will also be able to quickly deploy teams around the country to communities in crisis from both natural and man-made disasters.  We also want to grow and diversify our field since clowning has such a strong European legacy.  All of this will require partnering with individuals and institutions with much greater platforms than ours.”

Nonprofit, Healthy Humor, Uses Healthcare Clowning to Help Children.Sourced Photo

Healthy Humor says help from others in the entertainment industry would do big things for the program. Dina Paul-Parks explains the value of exposure “Our single greatest challenge is resources. But resources follow exposure. While we know the power of this work, not enough people even know that it exists.  We’d love to host celebrities and any other high profile/public figures on some “Clown Rounds” at one of our partner hospitals so they can shadow a team of our performers on the floors. They will then be able to speak from first-hand experience about the magic of the work to all their followers and media outlets, talk shows, etc. to encourage support — financial and other.”

Not only do the Red Nose Docs help the children, but they ease the stress of parents and doctors. The multiple programs Healthy Humor provides to families in need are inspiring. 

Learn more about Healthy Humor here or find them on social media here

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