Faces of COVID

Kristie – Therapeutic Clown

This is Kristie. She is a therapeutic clown.

“When COVID first hit Toronto, I felt honoured to be considered an essential worker. I think that it’s very important for a child’s well-being to have a friend during this time. As therapeutic clowns, our job is to facilitate therapeutic interactions with the patients and to empower them by encouraging them to make decisions around their play. This is very important because kids don’t often get many choices while in hospital.

Since COVID, there’s been a few interesting changes. We’re lucky that our biggest obstacle has been that we can’t blow bubbles anymore.

We aren’t able to use as many toys in our play sessions and we have to wear masks and goggles. Another big change was with our in-hospital TV program. Prior to COVID, patients used to watch our in-hospital TV program from their rooms and live in person. Now, they are watching from their rooms and call into the live show to participate.

A typical day at work starts off with dressing up as my clown character, Fern. She loves playing make-believe and making new friends. She’s naive, curious and loves to learn. She also lives in a treehouse! With the patients, we always let them choose the play. Some common activities I do is build LEGO sets, read stories and have lots of karaoke dance parties. You never know what you’re going to get into, but it’s always fun and imaginative – I played a game with a kid the other day where I was flushing myself down the toilet for 30 minutes.

Play is such an important tool for growth, learning and self-care for both children and adults. I think that play is going to be a really important part of what will help us get through the pandemic.

While I do feel tired at times, being around kids who are resilient and strong gives me energy. I am so thankful that I get to be a part of their lives during such a difficult time.”

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Gemma Donn


Gemma Donn is a graduate of the University of Toronto’s Violin Performance program, and is currently pursuing her Masters of Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Gemma works as the Coordinator at Parkdale Community Food Bank, and is a violin teacher at Upper Beaches Music School. She is the Creative Director at Songs in Self-Isolation, a program that provides virtual performances for seniors and hospital patients in isolation. Gemma also volunteers as a research assistant at St. Michael’s Hospital and the Artists’ Health Centre at the University Health Network.

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