Child Life clown, Dr. Bloomsie, helping kids through the science of fun times

A new clown at HSC Winnipeg Children’s Hospital is bringing laughter, joy, and silliness to sick and injured kids.

Introducing… Dr. Bloomsie!     This “doctor” loves to dance, make jokes, and most of all give kids a reason to smile. Bloomsie is child-like, wears tons of fun colours, and doesn’t see themselves as either a boy or a girl, just a clown.

Dr. Bloomsie truly thinks they’re a doctor and wants to learn from the doctors and nurses but really only has a degree in the science of fun times.

The woman behind the nose however, brings some excellent experience to her new role.

Alexandra Bolton has a master’s degree in Drama Therapy, which uses techniques of theatre, puppetry, and play to support therapeutic objectives with kids.

The goal of the clown is to give children tools so they’re able to direct play, which is very meaningful in a setting like a hospital where they often don’t have much control.

“It means a lot of attunement, so meeting a child where they are, reading very subtle cues from them as to what they want, what they might be bidding for more of, or less of, what they want to change,” says Alexandra.

Dr. Bloomsie is only the fourth clown at HSC Children’s Hospital but the program has very deep roots. Winnipeg was the first city in Canada to have a therapeutic clowning program.

In 1986 Karen Ridd, also known as Robo the Clown, approached the Child Life department with the idea of using clowning to support kids at Children’s Hospital. Karen had seen the positive impact Robo had on inner city children and thought kids in hospital may benefit from a clown too.

The Child Life team agreed with Karen, and together they started a program that continues to this day and has shaped therapeutic clowning across the world. At Children’s Hospital the clown is an integral part of the Child Life team.

Once Karen had hung up her nose, Dianne Baker brought the clown Silkie to life at Children’s Hospital. Following her was David Langdon with two clown personalities: Onri and Hubert. David says it’s important for children to have positive memories from their time in hospital.

“These experiences are enjoyable and they allow children to express themselves,” says David.

David worked for 30 years before the Child Life team had to find another clown to fill his shoes.

Alexandra stepped in at unique time for the clowning program as she applied and auditioned during the COVID-19 pandemic. That meant getting creative in how she interacted with kids over video chat, before officially getting the job and starting at the hospital.

Now Dr. Bloomsie is free to visit the kids who need them most, in a mask and PPE of course. Bloomsie clowns anywhere an opportunity arises and always stays in character.   They can be spotted on the wards, in out-patient clinics, waiting areas, playrooms, even hallways and elevators!

Alexandra says she feels the best skill she has in life is play, and is thrilled to be in a job where she can advocate for and playfully interact with children.

“I want everyone to feel awesome about themselves so I’m going to use my clown to do that.”