'Funnyatrics' clowns help sick children

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DALLAS, TX - A hospital can be a scary place for kids. Between the needle sticks, surgeries, and strangers, it's no wonder many children don't look forward to their visits. But sometimes all it takes is a clown to turn a child around.

Every day, they put on face paint, red noses, and oversized shoes. But these clowns are not headed to the circus. The Children’s Medical Center in Dallas is where they perform.

“Dr. Slappy" and "Dr. Monday" visit sick kids. The "funnyatrics" clowns are hospital staff members and permanent fixtures there. Five days a week, they make their rounds with one goal: make kids laugh.

"Once they start laughing, they feel better. There's no way you can't feel a little better if you're laughing," says Tiffany Riley, aka Dr. Slappy.

Four-year-old cancer patient Stephen has had a rough morning, but some bubbles change everything. "One of our challenges and our goals is to empower the child," says Dick Monday, aka Dr. Monday.

And it may do even more. Studies show laughter can lower blood pressure, reduce stress, improve alertness, and boost the immune system.

“You can see it…when the clowns enter the room and leave the room, the child is different,” says Dr. David Podeszwa.

He says the clowns are often paged when a child won't eat or needs a shot. "It's a way of distracting them. It's a way of putting them at ease."

Eight-year-old Amber needed some cheering up. "Because I have seizures." A few minutes with the clowns does the trick. "It's amazing. It helps pass the time," says Amber’s mother, Brandy Bailey.

“Dr. Slappy" and "Dr. Monday" are both veterans of Ringling Brothers Circus. Once a month, the clowns meet for an "emotional hygiene" session, where they talk about the difficult emotions they encounter while working with sick kids.