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Therapy clown offers dose of laughter as medicine

Posted at 9:25 AM, Dec 27, 2019

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — They say laughter is the best medicine. Well, for one therapy clown in West Michigan that saying is no joke.

"Hi, my name is Nancy Greiner. I’m also known as Gracie the Clown in many venues. I’m a therapeutic healthcare clown," said Nancy Greiner, founder of The Funnybone Foundation.

With her red nose secured, over-sized shoes and bag of tricks in hand. Gracie the Clown, or Nancy Greiner, is ready to conduct some funny business.

"Did I ever think I’d grow up to be a clown doctor? No! But it’s funny the path that life takes you," said Greiner.

"I started working at children's hospitals back east in Boston, Providence and Connecticut. I’ve worked in Chicago. Now, I’m looking to do that same work here in West Michigan," said Greiner.

Through her business, the Funnybone Foundation, Nancy has been working in West Michigan senior living facilities for about four years.

"She just goes right in and starts singing and greeting them," said Madeline Postmus, life enrichment coordinator at Green Acres Standale. "They just love that twist on their daily activity."

But Greiner's work isn't always telling a funny joke or doing a silly dance.

"It may just be holding their hand, or just listening to them. A lot of them are alone. They don’t get visitors on a regular basis. Some don’t get visitors at all," said Greiner. "So if I can just come in and just be genuine. They can tell if you really care, and I really care! It makes me happy to make them happy."

"Sometimes it just takes you back. They’re just so meaningful. To see some of their eyes open up and they get a smile on their face," said Madeline Postmus, life enrichment coordinator at Green Acres Standale. "Then we have some other ones who live in our memory care, who have Parkinson's, and they just don’t really interact well with other activities either. But as soon as she starts playing a song they can move and they just get smiles on their faces and they love it."

A true gift. The ability to connect. Something Greiner credits to her training and natural instincts.

"There is a little bit of innate. You have a sensitivity. I feel blessed that I do. I walk into a room and right away," said Greiner. "I think it’s because of I just really look for who the person is. My mission is to make that person happy."

Greiner visits dozens of seniors on each visit. While Greiner says each relationship is unique, one in particular stands out.

"Minetta loves her," said Postmus.

Minetta and Greiner met about two years ago.

They connected over the loss of Minetta's husband, Barry. Minetta says that stuck with her.

"She adds a little twist," said Minetta. "I guess it’s good because some of us get depressed. We get lethargic. We don’t move enough, or not happy enough and she just helps with it."

"Each time I come in and they hold my hand, and say 'thank you' it’s a gift! And I’m so fortunate that I get to do that all the time. That I get all these little gifts in my life. And I just want to continue this work because I believe that humor does make a difference," said Greiner. "Connecting with people does make a difference in a genuine way. And what better place than to do it here in West Michigan?"

Greiner says similar to how the elderly have no control over living in homes, the same goes for children in children's hospitals.

Her goal is to eventually start working in those hospitals right here in West Michigan.

For more information on Greiner and her business, The Funnybone Foundation, click here.