On September 18, 2014, following a year of formal training in “hospital clown studies,” Dr. Dee Zee (aka Diane Weiss of Woodstown, NJ) and Dr. Mooseie Reindeer (aka Rita Shade of Cherry Hill, NJ) received their diplomas and joined the ranks of the Bumper T. Caring Clowns at Cooper University Hospital. The Caring Clowns spread cheer and goodwill to patients hospitalized at Cooper.
As part of their education, the clowns-in-training learned hospital policies and core values, how to read a patient room, listening techniques, the use of gentle humor, how to make connections with patients, families and staff members, how to navigate the hospital and make up and costume techniques. The two also rounded once a week with veteran clown Dr. Bucket (aka Robert E. Bleiler of Moorestown, NJ) to get hands-on experience working with patients and staff. Dr. Bucket was one of the founding members of the Bumper T. Caring Clowns and has been at Cooper for 18 years.
For 34 years, the late George Edwards (aka Bumper “T” Clown of Barrington, NJ) devoted his life to making people laugh. Originally, he began therapeutic clowning at Cooper and then, as word of his work spread, others joined with him as he expanded to hospitals all over the South Jersey area and Pennsylvania.
In 1998, they began calling themselves The Bumper “T” Caring Clowns to honor the man who taught them all. Recognizing that gentle humor is a powerful and effective tool in promoting the healing process and in helping to relieve some of the stress and anxiety of a hospital stay, the Caring Clowns developed a training program in which individuals could join the team and volunteer their services to the hospital. In addition to New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the program has now expanded to include hospitals in Maryland, South Carolina, California and Washington State.
Although Edwards died in May 2011, his legacy lives on at Cooper in the next generation of caring clowns. Following their graduation, Dr. Dee Zee and Dr. Moosie Reindeer will join Dr. Bucket in making weekly rounds to both adult and pediatric patients, spreading their gentle humor to brighten the days of those hospitalized.
Caption: (l to r): Dr. Dee Zee, Dr. Bucket and Dr. Moosie Reindeer