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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bringing Cheer to Children

The steely-faced guards outside Lenin's mausoleum had their work cut out for them this week when an irrepressibly joyful group of foreigners dressed in creative and bizarre outfits cavorted in front of them on Red Square.

The 15 self-proclaimed clowns, from the United States, Great Britain ' and Australia, have been in Moscow this week doing the sometimes difficult work of making people laugh. They have spent much of their time visiting children's hospitals.

Only one member of the group is a professional performer; the others are simply people who enjoy dressing in funny costumes and traveling throughout Russia as temporary ambassadors of cheer.

The trip is organized by the Mir Corporation, a Seattle-based travel company that organizes foreign excursions, primarily to Russia, the Baltics, and Central Europe. This is the fourth annual clown caravan to Russia that the company has assembled.

The group organizer, Patch Adams, is a family doctor from Arlington, Virginia who has been wearing a clown costume every day for the past 20 years.

Adams, 42, runs a non-profit medical care center in the United States. He believes that humor often has greater healing powers than traditional medicine.

"This is my ninth trip to Russia", said Adams. "I think I should come every month. We come here to meet Russian people and to encourage them and make them laugh. The main point is to visit sick children in different hospitals and make their lives a little bit easier".

This week, the clowns brought their especially human kind of humanitarian aid to children at Moscow's Pediatric Oncological Hospital and Hospital No. 20. They also visited children at the Oncological Hospital in Balashikha, near Moscow. After Moscow, they will travel to St. Petersburg and Tallinn.

Each person in the group has paid about $2, 300 to come on the two week trip. Many of them took time off from work without pay.

"My husband doesn't want to talk much about those communists", said Bettina Milliken, visiting from New Mexico with her 12-year-old son, Graham. "I want Graham to feel this great spirit that Russians have. I hope he will learn a lot from this trip".

Eva Bear, an American wearing two funny ponytails and enormously over-sized shoes, stated her goal clearly. She said her main mission here is simply to make as many children laugh as possible.