by Jenn LoConte
The moment she walked into her first hospital room to cheer up a cancer patient, professional clown Annette Darragh, or “Miss Pockets” (as she has been affectionately known for 35 years), was convinced she was born to be a hospital clown, changing lives one smile at a time.
Annette first became interested in clowning while living in Chicago with her husband Michael. She regularly volunteered with a clown group that visited cancer patients in area hospitals. After they moved to Alabama, she discovered that, unfortunately, no such groups existed there. Taking matters into her own hands, she wrote a business proposal, sent it to the administrator of volunteer services at The University of Alabama at Birmingham, and after being approved, Annette again began to visit patients; sometimes as Miss Pockets and other times as Dr. Ivey Dripp along with one of her clown students, Nurse Poppy Pill.
While flying to a clown convention, she met a woman a few seats over and struck up a conversation. The woman shared with her how much a certain clown meant to her sister who worked as a nurse and how much of a difference she made in patients’ lives. Annette exclaimed, “Nice to meet you, I’m that clown.” The woman, who happened to be the number one fundraiser in Alabama, immediately helped Annette write a business plan to start a 501(c)3 and in 1994, Clowns Care Inc. was born; their mission – “To the aching heart of a child in need, the gift of a smile is pure magic!”
Since then, Annette has trained almost 400 clowns to work in area hospitals throughout Alabama, all are hired through grants and fundraisers. She has file cabinets full of emotional testimonials from people of all ages who thanked her for giving them not only a laugh but much-needed relief from a stressful time in their lives. Annette recalled a letter from a mother who wrote that her son, who was five at the time of his illness, still has a photo of Miss Pockets prominently displayed on his bedside dresser.
“It’s such a rewarding experience to help not only patients, but caregivers, and even the staff,” said Annette. “It makes you look at the world differently and become aware of what’s really important because, in an instant, your life can change.”
Just as Annette believes strongly that the course she has taken in life was fate, she and Michael also feel that their decision to invest with DLP Capital Partners was meant to be.
Annette and Michael became investors with DLP Capital Partners in 2016 after Michael happened to hear Don Wenner on Bobby Gunther Walsh’s radio show on WAEB. With their children grown and solid years of employment and volunteering under their belts, the Darraghs were seeking new investment opportunities. After several conversations with Gunther, they were optimistic and met with Don to learn more about DLP’s exciting investment options.
“Right from the start, we were impressed with Don, although we first thought he was the owner’s son,” joked Michael. “Since that time, we’ve been extremely pleased with not only the variety of our investments and the money we have made but also the communication. Don is always available to answer our questions, concerns, or just to talk.”
Annette added, “We attended the very next investment dinner event and met Larry Hickernell, Investment Success Manager, whom we have since developed a great relationship with. Whether we call the Bethlehem office on the phone or visit in person, someone always greets us, which is important in this day and age of technology. It’s rare that you actually speak to anyone.”
These days, Annette travels throughout the country, lecturing on the important role that humor plays on the immune system and teaching the art of face painting. Michael, who works in demolition construction, is an avid exerciser and plays guitar, piano, and the harmonica. They have two daughters, Lauren and Jillian in addition to grandsons Mikey and Hunter, whom they love to spoil.
After living in Pennsylvania for many years, the Darraghs are now looking forward to moving back to Alabama, closer to their daughters and their families. “Investing with DLP continues to reward us financially and has given us profitable opportunities,” said Annette.“We are excited to start this new chapter of our lives, especially watching baseball games and spending a lot more time with our grandsons.”