For many years, the Red Nose Docs of the nonprofit Healthy Humor have given children in fifteen hospitals a massive dose of the healing power of laughter and light.
Founded in 2016, Healthy Humor was born out of the Big Apple Circus. Co-founder and current CEO Dina Paul-Parks worked as the Vice-President of Community Programs for the circus before joining Karen McCarty and Deborah Kaufmann to take the Red Nose Docs to the next level. Together, the founders have over 60 years of experience.
The Red Nose docs serve over 600,000 children, but they also conduct Vaudeville visits, which are trips to meet elderly residents in critical care. Their silly personalities and exaggerated interactions help elders with dementia, and those rarely engage with visitors, participate and have fun.
Red Nose Docs can also work directly with healthcare professionals to help them learn how to interact better with young children. They help doctors and nurses to make emotional connections with patients and ease stress for parents. “The Docs” provide simple tips to help these workers while staying professional and without putting on actual performances.
Most recently, Healthy Humor piloted its Community Connections program. The team connected middle school students of Harlem, New York, with local police officers to focus on bringing communities of color and the police force together.
To celebrate the end of the 8-week program, Healthy Humor threw a community pizza party at the Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Community Center. Kids and officers got to play silly games, laugh, and bond.
The Community Connections program isn’t the only place Healthy Humor works outside the hospital. The nonprofit provides performers to The Hole In The Wall Gang Camp each summer and has done so for 30 years.
Founded by Paul Newman, this summer camp is like no other. The center invites children battling illnesses and families to spend the summer experiencing traditional summer camp but fit with medical staff and unique resources.
The children can participate in activities like horseback riding and swimming in a way that fits their needs.
Volunteers, including doctors and nurses, create memories and moments for children with severe illnesses and their families. The camp also runs weekend programs, a residential bereavement program for families who have lost a child, and brings the CampOut van right to families’ homes.
The CampOut van brings camp to the kids. Families can request home visits, and the van will deliver to them camp-style activities and outings.
Unsurprisingly, Healthy Humor and The Hole In The Wall Gang Camp work together to help kids and their families smile and laugh through challenging moments.
“Joy and laughter are not just transformative for the kids and families in our partner hospitals,” said HH Co-Founder and CEO Dina Paul-Parks. “They are powerful tools for crises beyond the
walls of the hospital, and we know that they can help both officers and young people to truly see each other, access empathy, build trust, and connect across the divide.”
The Healthy Humor organization is planning several exciting events, including a summer party with a celebrity guest, A national professional development conference for performers, and they are also working on expanding their reach and impact. The organization plans to open new chapters in additional cities and launch new programs to meet the needs of more children and families.
Learn more about Healthy Humor or The Hole In The Wall Gang Camp here.
Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.