My Volunteer Time Off: Clowning Around

Smiles and hope. Those are two of the reasons why I enjoy spending my time and spreading my talents to share a friendly face with children and the elderly who need some extra cheer in their lives. I’ve definitely taken a different approach to what “clowning around” typically means as I spent my volunteer time off volunteering as Huggies the Clown.

Some Background
To give some background, I am an active member with the Imperial Court which is a national organization. The Daughters are the female counterpart to the Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order Nobles Mystic Shrine (AEAONMS) Shriners organization. Our purpose focuses on charity and provides service in our community. Within our Court, we have a Clown Department which I am a proud member of.

Giving Perspective
In South Florida between Miami-Dade and Broward, there are about six clowns who are part of the local unit called “Kazah Get Down Clowns,” and as a group we visit children’s hospitals and senior homes where we help put smiles on people’s faces at a time when they need it most. Every year there is a convention for our national organization and in 2016 the conference took place in Tampa, Florida. After the conference my clown alter-ego “Huggies the Clown” spent time volunteering and spreading smiles at a local children’s hospital and a senior home. As us clowns typically do, we sang, danced and played music and sometimes even just sat and listened to the stories the patients and residents shared with us. I love being able to bring a smile to someone’s face and give them a bit of joy at a time when they need it most. I knew this was how I wanted to spend my volunteer time off this past year.

A Cherished Moment
At one the senior homes I’ve visited over the past couple of years, our group started performing the known childhood song, “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands” with the group and boy, did this group get into the spirit, and it turned into quite the party. Despite many of the residents being in wheelchairs and using walkers, they clapped their hands and stomped their feet, and everyone fed off of the great energy. After the song and dance, I had the chance to have a conversation with one woman who was working on a puzzle. I sat with her, we talked, and I helped her find the right pieces to start putting the puzzle together. I truly believe that all of these people are glad a group of new, friendly faces come to visit them and add a bit of sunshine to their day.

A Touching Moment
Part of where my passion lies is helping children. It is near and dear to my heart. I am personally passionate about causes that support children and being a clown and visiting children in hospitals is how I help make a positive impact. Aside from making appearances as I clown, around the holidays I go to Holtz Children’s Hospital in Miami where I sport festive jingle bells and attire and handout teddy bears to the patients. I’ve also participated as Huggies the clown at a children’s event held at the BB&T Center around the holidays and interacted with the children and their families. One of the most touching moments was when I reached for a little girl’s hand. At first, she was hesitant and didn’t seem to want to dance. Her mom signaled to me that she was blind. As the music played and she became more comfortable, she reached for my hand as we danced away. She showed off her best dance moves and was beaming.

Our Future
Why am I passionate about children? The children are our future. They didn’t ask to been in a hospital and it’s unfortunate that they have health challenges. Whether I am helping spread warmth and love as a clown or with teddy bears or a simple conversation, to me it’s giving them hope to believe and to be a fighter and fight whatever it is that they are dealing with. And maybe one day they will remember those moments and be able to replicate and do the same and pay it forward.

What a VTO Day Means to Me
Having the opportunity for volunteer time off through Modernizing Medicine has helped me to develop personally and increase my self-esteem. Working for an employer that encourages their employees to volunteer within their community is something that you don’t hear often. We all have busy lives, but if we can just show people that there is someone out there that cares, we may not be able to give them the world, but we can make a difference in their lives. Sometimes music and dance are the best medicine there is.

Aaron Stoklosa
Aaron Stoklosa

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