Shriners clowns gather for children

2012-02-25T22:15:00Z 2012-02-26T08:31:49Z Shriners clowns gather for childrenBy CARMEN DAYE IRISH cirish@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Clowning around is taken very seriously by Shrine clowns.

More than 50 people with giant red noses and shoes 16 inches long joked around at the annual International Shrine Clown Association conference on Saturday, hosted by the Al Bedoo Shriners.

Clowns, some from as far away as Mexico and Canada, were judged in character on their appearance, makeup and skits. But the main reason they came together was to support children.

Shrine clowns have a mission to raise money for Shrine Hospitals for Children, which provide free care to disabled and burned kids.

Floyd Creekmore "Creeky," the oldest clown, said working to help children is their philanthropy -- it's what comes naturally to him and other Shrine clowns.

"Our hospitals do great things for a lot of people," Creekmore said. "And we ask for nothing in return. It gives me a great deal of pleasure."

Creekmore said he has been a clown his whole life -- all 95 years of it. He has been a Shrine clown since 1982 and was recently inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest working clown.

He was honored for the induction at Saturday's banquet dinner.

"I may be the oldest, but clowning keeps me young," he said. "And I'll be doing it just as long as I can."

"I joined mainly because of my nephew," Creekmore said. "He was born with a birth defect. And he'll never be rid of it, but he has received the best care -- the care of Shriner's hospital. After I saw the care he was receiving, I knew I wanted to be a part of that. That kind of tells the story."

Rob Orednick "Matches," 25, joined Shriners and became a clown last year. His name was chosen because he is also a volunteer firefighter for Park City Fire Department.

"We are the future," he said. "Without guys my age, there won't be any Shriners left."

And for children like Whittney Seibert, 18, the work Shriners do make all the difference.

Seibert was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was 1½ years old. She was unable to talk, sit up, crawl or walk. She had her first leg brace when she was 20 months.

Now Seibert is 17, and two surgeries and numerous visits later she can wiggle her toes and walk heel-to-toe. Even more, she plays on her high school's varsity basketball team in Columbus.

Back when she was a toddler, her parents took her to a Shriners circus. Shriner clown Leonard Fitchner, of Laurel, noticed her brace and suggested Shriners Hospital to them.

"It wasn't just the financial factor for us. It was more important than that," Herman Siebert, Whittney's father, said. "It was the moral support and family support, and having the absolute best care. That was most important to us. And for us."

Herman since has become a Shriner himself. And a clown. He goes by "Lucky."

"I'm not sure how lucky I am, but I must be pretty lucky for having my daughter," he said. "I think I've won her heart, and I know she's won mine."

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