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My Generation

Big Apple Circus Clown Care Uses Laughter as Medicine

Volunteers make hospital rounds to lift kids’ spirits

Dr. JJ and Dr. Baldy are not your typical MDs. They don’t fight disease or operate on vital organs. Instead, they treat a part of the body that can easily be overlooked at pediatric hospitals: the spirit.


The two start their day differently than most people who work at the Children's National Medical Center. Rather than slipping into scrubs and looking over medical charts, these two healers are smearing on colorful makeup and donning ruby red noses. They are clowns…and they spend their days making “clown rounds” to boys and girls who yearn for a healthy dose of laughter and play. They are just two of the 80 committed and talented clowns who visit sick children at hospitals across the country.

While many of these jokers have been clowning around all their lives, for others it’s a second career. Dr. JJ, otherwise known as John Dodge when not sporting his oversized shoes, was a police officer for 23 years and spent much of his time investigating serious and often horrific traffic accidents. It was an emotional time for him, but today he’s balancing those tough times by bringing joy and excitement to ailing kids.

My Generation tags along with a couple of clowns to discover how the Big Apple Circus Clown Care program is changing the lives of both children and jesters alike.

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