GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Usually, when you think of clowns you envision them at a circus, or birthday party. Some people may even be a little frightened of them. But for hundreds of South Mississippians, one clown, in particular, has brought them joy and encouragement on their most stressful and saddest days.
She calls herself Lucy the Clown and her mission in life is helping people have a better day. That's why we believe she's South Mississippi Strong.
"You like puzzles?" Lucy asked two boys.
She isn't the kind of clown you find at a kid's party.
"Thank you for the job you do," said Lucy to a worker at Garden Park Hospital, who was cleaning a room.
"Thank you so much. That's another favorite color," said one woman sitting in a waiting room.
Lucy dedicates her time to visiting patients and the medical staff at hospitals. We found her decked out from head to toe in a clown costume, pulling a wagon, of what she calls "happies."
During a trip down the halls of Garden Park Medical Center, Lucy had an extra source of happiness - Abby, who works as a therapy dog.
"I go, encourage and brighten a day. Give an encouraging word. I pray. And just hopefully bring smiles to people," said Lucy.
Lucy's mission to turn someone's day around was inspired by a dark past. She credits God for getting her out and creating her new life of service to others.
"I came from a life of prostitution and drugs and then I was radically saved," said Lucy.
Now, on any given day you can find her in places where people are at their worst.
"Sad to say, at the end of life, or family members just lost someone and they come out the door and I just hold them," she recalled.
"We could be having a bad day, bad experience and she'll come in and you see here and it's just Ms. Lucy! She makes us happy," said Shaina Hawkshead, who is a unit secretary at Garden Park Medical Center.
"Thank you for the job you do. Thank you so much," Lucy told a worker behind the counter.
"Send me to a sick room with somebody. Send me to somebody that needs a smile or touch and that's where I'll go and you'll be very surprised at how a touch will encourage somebody," she added. "And it seems to me the ones that are more grouchy are the ones that I like the best."
"Hi. How are you doing?" Lucy asked physician assistant Jerry Stork.
"She comes in. If we're having a stressful day just seeing her smiling just kind of makes everything go away for us. So it's a really good thing for us," Stork explained.
A visit from the special lady also comes with some much needed comic relief.
"Usually they break out laughing when they see me and I tell them it's not the drugs, I really am a clown," she said.
Though Lucy can't perform a surgery or prescribe a drug, she's confident she can help change a patient's your way of thinking.
"I can cure when someone that needs to know there is hope. I can cure when someone is having a bad day and they don't think anyone cares. I can be there at just the right time. And the Lord does that with me. He puts me there at just the right time," Lucy said.
And sometimes her smile and the laughter she brings is the best medicine.
Lucy the Clown also visits daycares, and every department at hospitals and nursing homes. She's been doing this for eight years. Her real name is Kathy Moore, but when she puts on her costume she goes by Lucy. - a name given to her by a little girl she visited.