The near-capacity crowd gathered in the Guilds Hall of Fame at Children's Hospital Central California enjoyed a large dose of silliness dispensed in perfect measure by two circus clowns. Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus stopped in Fresno for a series of performances, and two of their clowns broke away from Selland Arena to perform on a different stage for an audience that couldn’t come to them.
Several hospitalized children and their siblings wore clown noses donated to Child Life last Christmas. “I wondered what we could do with these,” said Mary Beth Jones, Child Life supervisor at Children’s. “And this event was perfect.”
Julio Ramazini came all the way from Rio de Janeiro to clown around with the circus. The native Brazilian had no trouble communicating with the audience. The spiky-haired “wimpy” clown used physical comedy, his laughter-inducing chortle, and his whiney cry (aided by a kazoo wailing pathetically) to keep the kids in stitches.
Sean Davis came from Chicago. His brawny muscle-suit contrasted comically with Julio’s costume, which included a support brace for his back. “Part of my job as a clown is to inspire happiness,” said Davis. “I love coming to children’s hospitals. It makes my heart leap. Nothing can compare to bringing a smile to a little child’s face.”
Fresno was the first California stop on the circus’ tour, and Children's Hospital Central California was the clowns’ first performance since The Greatest Show on Earth arrived in the Golden State. “Everybody say cheese,” said Julio with his Portuguese accent, as he snapped a picture of the crowd with a digital camera handed him by a gentleman in the front row. That was the only time the clowns asked for a smile. From the disappearing hankie trick that failed miserably to the moment the infamous rubber chicken took flight, smiles and laughter filled the hall.
“I’m happy today,” said Carson Gentry, a 9-year-old boy who has been at Children's Hospital for two months.
“It’s the first time I’ve seen him crack up since he came,” said Nicole Gentry, Carson’s mother. “This hospital is such a gift. Yesterday it was the pilots who came, and today he got to see the clowns.” Tears welled up in her eyes. “This place is a gift, not just for the children, but for the parents,” she said.
After concluding their show in the Guilds Hall of Fame, the clowns visited several patients in the pediatric intensive care unit.
“They speak your language,” said a grinning mother to her 16-month-old baby girl. The clowns babbled and giggled right along with the entranced child. When they waved goodbye, she chattered and babbled as if to thank them for coming and ask them back soon. Apparently the clowns understood, because she seemed content with their nonsensical reply.
The clowns learned to gel in and gel out of each room. Before entering one room, Julio squeezed some gel on his right hand, reached up with his left, and pretended to rub the gel in his armpit. Even the grownups laughed at his silliness.
A 9-year-old boy from Denver was visiting the California coast with his family, but their vacation was tragically cut short when their car was hit head on by another vehicle. The boy’s father expressed his appreciation for bringing smiles into a sad situation.
The clowns spent more time than originally planned at the Hospital, carrying a big black doctor’s bag with a bright red cross on the side. They did not administer the kind of medical procedures the children were accustomed to, but they dispensed laughter like good medicine.