Helping Quinn Smile This Holiday Season
Bringing Joy and Laughter to Children in Need
I really hope it is recognised just how significant the Clown Doctors are to a child’s treatment journey. It is absolutely invaluable; the kindness and laughter that they have brought to both our daughters’ lives during such a horrible time. I really cannot express our gratitude enough! “
– Sheridan Wiatkowski
In April 2022, the world of Sheridan’s family was turned upside down when their beloved four-year-old daughter, Quinn, was diagnosed with leukaemia. Beginning with what seemed like an ordinary cold, Quinn displayed symptoms that were all too familiar to parents: lethargy, a high fever, and a runny nose.
However, as the days passed, Quinn’s condition deteriorated. She was not bouncing back as they had hoped. Instead, a mysterious rash of red spots began to appear, prompting Sheridan to take Quinn to the emergency department at their local hospital.
The diagnosis that followed was like a sledgehammer to their world: High-risk acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.
The Power of Clown Doctors
From that moment on, their lives revolved around Quinn’s treatment at Westmead Children’s Hospital, a place where emotions run deep, and smiles are often in short supply.
Living six hours from the hospital meant their new reality was draining, both physically and emotionally. Days and nights were no longer measured in the usual way but rather in hospital visits, treatment schedules, and the weight of their daughter’s struggle.
Leukaemia treatment is a gruelling journey for a child and their family. Yet, amidst the pain and uncertainty, there was a glimmer of hope, a source of joy in the most unexpected place: the Clown Doctors. These purpose-trained performers who collaborate with medical and healthcare professionals, provide much needed support and respite to children, caregivers, and hospital staff across Australia. ‘Being at the hospital so frequently, the Clown Doctors get to know not only the patients, but also their families,’ Sheridan says.
‘They’re incredibly tactful at reading the room. They involved Quinn’s sister Niamh and us as her parents, offering moments of togetherness that are a precious gift during trying times,’ she continues.
Making a Difference, One Smile at a Time
The Clown Doctors, The Humour Foundation’s flagship program, have been a constant presence in Quinn’s life during her hospital stays.
‘Anything that can lighten the mood is welcome, this is where the Clown Doctors are so important’, says Sheridan about their impact. Quinn, always up for anything silly and random, found a kindred spirit in the Clown Doctors. They played games with toy bananas stuck to walls, threw invisible frisbees, and made rubber chickens come to life. But it was a particular moment that touched Sheridan’s heart deeply. Quinn was having a particularly challenging day in the treatment clinic and Dr Toot sat down with his ukulele. In a soft, sing-song voice, he composed a rhyme about Quinn’s room, pointing at various objects. It was a moment of pure magic making Quinn smile when nothing else could.
Support the Clown Doctors
The Clown Doctors have a unique talent for engaging with the children and following their lead and interests. They’ve helped Quinn cope with her stress and uncertainty during long clinic days, providing a safe space for her to be herself and a child before anything else.
Sheridan describes an unspoken magic that happens when Clown Doctors enter the hospital. ‘Their presence in the hospital setting instantly brings a sense of ease and frequent joy. They are all so tactful in their approach and really just want the children to feel like the kids that they are.’
Their influence extends beyond laughter; it fosters resilience, bonds families together
, and kindles hope. ‘If they can be silly and fun, maybe we can all aspire to be a little bit the same!’ expresses Sheridan.
Clown Doctors bring laughter where it is unexpected, yet most needed. They lighten the heavy load carried by patients, parents, and hospital staff in clinics, burns units, adolescent wards, and even for children suspected of abuse. They create a haven of joy in the midst of illness, proving humour is a powerful medicine.
Sheridan reflects on how programs like the Clown Doctors benefit families going through similar experiences. ‘Everything in a hospital setting is just so clinical, and then you get these people dressed up in white robes, huge shoes, and all sorts of mismatched attire. You really can’t help but forget about everything, even if it’s just for a minute, and take in the joy and good humour and the effect it has on the kids.’
Sheridan offers a heartfelt piece of advice to families walking a similar path, ‘I think it’s so easy to get caught up in the weight of it all, the appointments, medication and schedules. Having those moments of joy and humour really is essential in lifting each other up and keeping those bonds strong,’ she shares.
The tireless work of Clown Doctors like Dr Toot and their invaluable impact on children like Quinn and their families are made possible through the generous support of people like you. The Clown Doctors program, operating in hospitals across every state and territory of Australia, depends on the kindness and support of those who recognise the healing power of laughter.
Your donations ensure that this essential program continues to flourish, reaching children in need during their most challenging moments. This holiday season, your contribution can help keep the laughter alive in the most unexpected places, providing a glimmer of hope and joy for children and families facing the darkest of days.