Spreading smiles and raising money – that’s the mantra of a new “fun-focused” branch of Minden Rotary.

The local service group launched a celebrity clown initiative last year – combining philanthropy with laughter while encouraging locals to don eccentric costumes and big, bright red noses at community events.

“The idea was to demonstrate to people that Rotary has a good time – but also to increase our presence in the community,” said Rotarian Sally Moore, who came up with the initiative. “The role of a celebrity clown goes beyond just putting on a costume and walking through a crowd – it’s about creating magical moments, bringing smiles to faces, and connecting with people in a way that transcends words.”

The clowns were present at last year’s Canada Day celebrations in Minden, as well as various Minden Pride events, Rotary Fest, and both the Minden and Haliburton Santa Claus parades.

The inaugural class of jesters included former Minden Hills mayor Brent Devolin, Minden Rotary president Dave Woodcroft, Moore, and community members Jan Clarke, Gina Deighton, Deanna Garbutt, Bob Baynton-Smith, and Gary Stoner.

Collectively, they raised approximately $6,000 – with every penny being reinvested into various community programs, Moore said.

Woodcroft noted the bulk of the funds were donated to the Minden Community Food Centre, with some also supporting operations at Abbey Retreat Centre and youth hockey. Money was also earmarked for several youth leadership programs Rotary runs, such as its ‘capital experience’ initiative, which sends a student to Ottawa with MP Jamie Schmale.

Money raised this year will also go to the food bank, while also helping to pay for a new shed Rotary is building at Minden’s community garden.

“We’ll be putting the shed up just after Easter – it’s a good size and gives people space to store their wheelbarrows, hoses and all the tools they need to tend to their plot. This saves them having to cart them back and forth, or leave them at the garden unattended,” Woodcroft said.

Moore said she’s looking to add to her army of celebrity clowns this year.

“We’re looking for people who are comfortable putting on a costume and getting out into the community and having fun. We try to be present year-round, so have both summer and winter events,” Moore said. “Being a celebrity clown is a one-of-a-kind adventure that leaves a lasting impact on both the participants and the community at large.”

Woodcroft said the initiative has added a new dimension to Minden Rotary and helped boost the service club’s image in the community. He volunteered as a celebrity clown at a Minden Pride event last summer, noting it was a memorable experience.

“People just love getting their picture taken with us – there’s lots of smiles and excited faces. I’d recommend it for anyone,” he said.

Anyone interested in becoming a celebrity clown can contact Moore at 705-286-4922 or info@sunnyrockbb.ca.