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A St. Louis Clown with a Heart for Patients

Contributors
Kay Dunn

Robert Gale has been clowning around for 49 years. He became a Shrine clown in 1973 in Syracuse, New York, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemical engineering.

Through his professional career, his temple membership transferred from the Tigris Shrine to the Hadji Shrine in Pensacola, Florida, to the Moolah Shrine in St. Louis.

Retired now, he’s best known around town as “Robby the Clown." You’ll find him in parades, in the circus, at events, and most importantly, entertaining patients at Shriners Children’s St. Louis.

“What does it take to be a clown? It takes a smile. You have to be in it for others, not for yourself,” Robby said.

He learned that lesson during his first visit to a Shriners Children’s hospital.

“When you’re having a chicken lunch with a child who is eating the chicken with his feet because he didn’t have any arms, you learn early on that it’s your job to stay in character and entertain," he said. "You can’t get too emotional about what you’re seeing. Us clowns are with the kids so they can have fun and not stress about their treatment."

Robby the Clown is excited to get back in front of patients once it’s safe and COVID-19 restrictions loosen. He knows there’s another generation of smiles he has yet to unlock.

As for the legacy of the last 100 years of Shriners Children’s, Robby said the proof is all around us.

“There are grown children out there that you don’t know were our patients," he said with a smile. "And you don’t know that they were our patients because we did such a good job in providing them care. That’s the testament to Shriner’s Children's."

Robby the Clown is 71 years young. He might move a little slower than when he started clowning around almost five decades ago, but don’t count him out. Robby plans to entertain patients for years to come.

“As long as I can put the make-up on and make a kid laugh,” promised Robby.

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