Molly Penny the clown marks 20 years of lifting spirits at CHEO

With her electric blue hair, bag of tricks and sense of humour, Molly Penny has played a vital role helping patients and families as CHEO's therapeutic clown for decades. 

"She was actually a good friend for me and my husband being there, and she was great with the other kids," said parent Krystal Moreau. "Abigail would look forward to going to CHEO just to see Molly." 

This year marks Molly Penny's 20th volunteer year. 

"I'm really truly blessed to be in this situation because humour is amazing how it changes the situation from disaster mode into fun mode," said Molly Penny. "And you don't go with the medical part you just use your sense of humour and all the kids have a sense of humour."

"She is just as essential a part of our organization as the building, as the equipment, as the expertise and we just love her," said Alex Munter, CHEO president and CEO. 

Molly Penny was an operating room nurse at CHEO for years before her second career was born after a clowning workshop.

"It allows them moments of laughter and fun and joy that can be a distraction to the illness or the surgery or the procedure that they need to have done," said Sarah Bigford, the development and rehabilitation clinical manager at CHEO.

There's no shortage of stories and surprises involving Molly Penny. Bigford recalls one time when she helped a shy boy meet one of his favourite hockey players during a visit with the Ottawa Senators. 

"She sort of prepared him with some jokes and tricks that he could use as bit of an opening to warm up his conversation with the players and it just warmed my heart to see how she helped him achieve really something that was so important to him," Bigford said. 

Molly Penny is there for kids and families through tough times too. 

"You have to go with the plan with the kid and leave the parents in the background because you know what they're feeling and so once the kid starts to laugh then the parents eventually do come around, even though it's sad moments," Molly Penny said.

Molly Penny said the kids will always come first. 

"I just like working with kids and that's the bottom line. The bottom line is … even if the Queen was here or Mr. Munter it wouldn't matter, the kid gets priority," she said.