When Karen Ridd first began to mentor me in the art of therapeutic clowning at SickKids, I was very worried I might not find the ‘right’ name for my newborn therapeutic clown.  Through several visualization exercises and journaling –  it came to me – Bunky was just the right name for my new friend.

The ‘bunky’ was the little shack or ‘play space’ in the woods  at our summer cottage where my brothers, sister and cousins and I could go for play.   Where adults were banned and only kids allowed in. Out of the city and up to the lake house was where my family would go  weekends and for our summer holidays.  This was where freedom of play, adventure and the imagination was encouraged.  We were permitted to head outside, create and imagine other worlds, create imaginary friends or nurture friendships with our summer neighbours.

BUNKY was born in 1993 at The Hospital for Sick Children.  He is present to relieve stress and anxiety for these patients, their families and staff at SickKids.  He is present to help empower his friends and offer choices to the hospitalized child.  They have no choice of what illness they have, the meds they take, the treatment given to them, who walks into their room etc. but they do have a choice whether they wish to play, how they play and if they want to play that day with  their clown friend –  Bunky is the one person they can say NO to!

Yes,  Bunky is a ‘real’ character/persona to his friends in hospital. Patients and families place bets to whether Bunky is a boy or a girl?  While perhaps a little slow in his understanding of the world of hospital where he lives, he exudes compassion and caring.  At the same time he/she loves being cared for by his patient friends.  Everyone is taking care of the patient, so Bunky  can empower them through offering himself as having his own troubles. Bunky has difficulty tying his shoelaces, misplaces his toys, forgets where he is, or is supposed to be, and sometimes goes in and out of the wrong door when leaving a room, but his young friends find the solution .

Bunky is non-verbal right up to the SARS epidemic when he was able to have his/her voice slowly brought back through an operation at SickKids. With light gibberish, sighs and deep breath, tapping feet and body language communicating with his friends and staff was natural and understood by all. Bunky has nurtured friendships through inclusive play throughout his life.

Early sketch of Bunky 1990s