Rick Rack (Carolyn Pearce) is all smiles at the Mardi Gras Ball for Special People.

“A friendly look, a kindly smile, one good act, and life's worthwhile.”  ~Author Unknown

There are many meetings held across the UTMB campus every day addressing the serious business of health care, education and research.

And then there is one meeting where the sole agenda item is how to make children laugh. 

In the monthly meeting of the Student Caring Clown Organization,   Rick Rack and her fellow officers, Snickers, Freckles, Princess Jingles and Beautiful Britches, tackle issues such as face painting, balloon animals and magic tricks. 

Topping the agenda at a recent meeting was their annual fundraiser, April Fools for Health Smile Campaign, geared toward supplying  UTMB’s clown troupe with all it needs to keep kids smiling.

“For a $20 smile contribution we can purchase  40 red foam clown noses, 300 balloons for sculpting animals, 625 smiley clown face stickers, 1,000 happy face stickers, and miles and miles of smiles,” said Carolyn Pearce (Rick Rack), president of the group.  “We will have tables set up in both the John Sealy and student cafeterias every Tuesday in April to accept donations.”

The clown troupe performs Clown Rounds on the 10th floor of the John Sealy Hospital for an hour once a week. They roll their clown carts into the rooms of UTMB’s smallest patients and brighten their day with games, laughter and a good dose of fun.

“It is fun to interact with the kids. I personally love the Clown Rounds and being one-on-one with a child who really appreciates getting a reason to laugh,” said Pearce.  “I was in the room a few weeks ago with an 18-month-old whose entire demeanor changed when I started blowing bubbles.  I left the bubbles with the nurse because she was just amazed at how happy the little girl was.”

The organization currently has 70 members and includes students, faculty and retirees.  It was started in 2001 with the help of UTMB Volunteer Services and became a student-run organization a few years later. 

In addition to the Clown Rounds, the troupe participates in community events such as the Galveston County Health Fair, where they recently performed in a show to teach kids about healthy eating and exercise. They also take part in the Mardi Gras Ball for Special People, D’Feet Breast Cancer Fun Run, Celebrate Recovery Festival and various activities at the Ronald McDonald House. 

Karen Stagner (Grannie Clown), who joined the troupe in 2002, is one of the many UTMB retirees who continue to be active in the troupe.

“Smiles are contagious and healthy.  The troupe provides a playful and cheerful distraction to hospitalized children, their families and the nursing staff,” said Stagner. “When they are clowning at community events they are fun, happy and positive smile ambassadors for all of UTMB and the Galveston community.”

The troupe suffered a major loss in 2008 when its entire inventory of toys was destroyed by Hurricane Ike and the 2009 Smile Campaign fundraiser was cancelled in the aftermath of the storm.

“The Smile Campaign is the troupe’s big annual fundraiser so this year’s campaign is important to help them replenish their funds and replace their inventory,” said Stagner.

For more information on how to donate and become a smile sponsor go to the Caring Clown’s website (http://studentcaringclowns.org - *note: This site should be viewed with FireFox browser) or email Carolyn Pearce (caringclowns@gmail.com).