The healing power of play


MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Today is Thursday, September 19th. Thank you for listening to WORLD Radio. Good morning. I’m Megan Basham.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: Humorology!

It isn’t a real word, but a term coined by men and women who believe in the power of play.

Their daily objective is to bring light and laughter into dark spaces. WORLD Radio’s Myrna Brown has the story.

AUDIO: [Sound of Settimi putting on makeup] Where’s the red?

MYRNA BROWN, REPORTER: With finger-smeared makeup…

AUDIO: [Sound of Settimi putting on makeup] I’ll just put some cheeks on a little bit

…Tim Settimi is putting on his face.

AUDIO: [Sound of Settimi putting on makeup] Boink, boink, boink, boink…

Holding a black eyebrow pencil, he adds the final touch…

SETTIMI: Done! 

…Freckles!

ANGLIN: I carry a triangle, which these sticks can play…

Standing just inches away, Ron Anglin is busy loading his huge, multi-colored pockets with musical creations. 

ANGLIN: This right here is a tourniquet and I have found that tourniquets can be great for percussion. 

Both Anglin and Settimi are professional clowns about to take a very special stage. 

SETTIMI: You ready? 

But before they leave their dressing room, one final stop. 

AUDIO: [Sound of water running]

ANGLIN: So we have to scrub before we leave the floor.

Anglin and Settimi aren’t just clowns… 

INTERCOM: May I have your attention please. Will the parents of the patients in room number 2152 please return to your room.

… They’re clown doctors, about to make their rounds at an Atlanta children’s hospital. Settimi is known as Dr. OkeyDokey. As a fine arts college graduate, the Chicago native toured professionally as a mime and musician for nearly two decades. Anglin calls himself Dr. tiny, an unlikely name for the six foot tall, 245 pound former Black Hawk helicopter pilot and platoon leader.

ANGLIN: Before I start each day, I say a three-word prayer. Please use me.

ELEVATOR: Third floor, going up! 

As the two approach a huge hospital waiting room, they scan the space.  

DR. TINY: You have to be very careful because some people are sleeping. They’ve been up since 4 oclock in the morning and had to drive three hours to get here.

Then they split up.  

DR. OKEY DOKEY: my name is Dr. Okey Dokey. What’s yours? Shannen.

Shannen is 14 years old, slender, and also has freckles. 

JESSICA: He has Noonan Syndrome with cerebral palsy. He’s had multiple open heart surgeries, he’s had his spleen out. He’s got what they call the magic rods in his back. Today we’re going to have foot correction surgery. 

That’s Shannen’s mom, Jessica. She says he’s been in and out of hospitals since he was two weeks old. 

JESSICA: Some days it just kind of stinks to be here, you know? And so the clowns will come in and cheer us up and make us try to get a smile out of us or a laugh and just be silly.

DR. OKEY DOKEY SINGING: When you’re smiling, when you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you.

The pace picks up as we check in with the unit nurse for day surgery.

NURSE: You can go to the two year old in 28, the 4 year old in 24 and 11  year old in 15. That’s Spanish speaking.

AUDIO: Hi, are you busy? We’re almost done. Ok. we’ll come back in a minute.

TINY: So we’re very careful when we enter the rooms. Here’s another thing, if you see a baby in a mom’s arms and they’re having a good time together, we don’t even knock because we can’t improve that.

CLOWNS: Hi Allie! Look who’s here!

4-year-old Allie and her mom sit criss-cross-applesauce on a gurney. Allie is about to have eye surgery.

DR. OKEY DOKEY SINGING: Tiny bubbles…

As Dr. Okey Dokey serenades the family, Dr. tiny blows bubbles. Allie’s mom approves.

PAM: I like seeing them here for the kids. It got her attention and she likes bubbles. It was comforting. It took your mind off of what was coming for a little bit.

A few feet down the hall, it seems Dr. tiny has misplaced an elephant!

SOUND: I’ll look over here, hang on. (Dr. tiny runs into trash can) Careful. Did you see that trash can? It tried to bite me. (kid chimes in) No it didn’t. Trash cans don’t bite. Yes it did! I was walking over here and all of a sudden (runs into trash can again) (kid is just tickled).

As they make their rounds, giggles follow them. But the two remember the days when humorology was frowned on.

OKEY DOKEY: Have doctors always embraced you? Not always. As we have some we call codfish, who don’t appreciate us at first. Our founder met a doctor and the doctor said clowns don’t belong in a hospital. And he said, neither do children.

TINY: This is a ministry because we are connecting with kids and adults and staff and we are trying to show love.

AUDIO: [Sound of two clowns singing two-part harmony and playing ukulele]

On this day, love is an Irish lullaby, a ukulele and two red noses convinced a joyful heart is indeed, good medicine.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Myrna Brown reporting from Atlanta, Georgia.


(Photo/Myrna Brown)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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One comment on “The healing power of play

  1. Anita says:

    After having the pure pleasure of meeting Ron, I can only imagine what beautiful hearts the other clowns also have. It’s not just humor, it’s a healing ministry!

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