As it turns out, laughter really is the best medicine.
And some young patients at Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital were treated to an extra dose of it Wednesday, when the circus paid a visit.
A trio of clowns from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus entertained youngsters in the hospital lobby for nearly an hour Wednesday in advance of the show’s official opening tonight at Colonial Life Arena.
The special guests were part of the circus’ Ambassadors of Laughter program that celebrates the healing power of laughter. The sneak-peek provided a little distraction from the ongoing care offered at the hospital that has more than 30 pediatric subspecialties and treats more than 80,000 children each year.
“What we try to do every day is help our kids laugh and smile,” Children’s Hospital child life supervisor Christine Fink said. “A lot of them won’t get out (of the hospital) in time to go to the circus, so we try to bring the circus to them. It helps them cope and feel better.”
During Wednesday’s special preview, patients — some in wheelchairs and others carrying their IV poles — enjoyed front-row seats to the clowning around that began with a playful game of hide and seek and ventured into jumping rope, magic tricks and some fancy basketball handling.
Marissa Miles, 5, of Bennettsville got in on the basketball act as she took cues from one of the clowns to skillfully execute a balancing ball maneuver that delighted her young audience.
“They do funny stuff,” said the beaming Marissa, who showed no signs of stage fright.
Her courage came as no surprise to her father, Marcus Miles.
“She loves being the center of attention,” Miles said. “She loves it, and I love it just as much as she does.”
Wednesday’s visit was a routine stop for the circus, which partners with the national Beads of Courage outreach. The movement works to strengthen resilience and coping in children facing serious illnesses. And, as at similar stops around the country, circus members gave the Children’s Hospital patients strings of beads to help them mark significant milestones in their treatments. The afternoon ended with taking pictures and signing autographs.
Ringling Bros. troop member Oscar Liendo Jr. said Wednesday’s visit and others like it rank among his favorite stops.
“There is an immediate satisfaction,” Liendo said. “I don’t feel that I am the most productive member of society that I can be until I come to the hospital to make kids smile.”
If you go
What: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus
When: through Sunday
Where: Colonial Life Arena
Tickets: Starting at $17. Available online at LMCTix.com, by phone at (855) 456-2849, at the Colonial Life box office or at Play It Again Sports in Columbia.