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Ziggy the Clown smiles through a stroke

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
May 1, 2011 at 12:01 a.m.

Luke McGehee, 10, looks at a bright pink car during the benefit car and bike carnival for Ziggy the clown's medical costs at the Victoria Community Center on Sunday.

For the past 21 years, Kim Rickman, better known as Ziggy the Clown, has garnered smiles and laughter from more than 1,000 audiences around Victoria.

But when she suffered a paralyzing stroke in October 2009, smiling and laughing became a challenge.

"After the stroke, I was completely paralyzed on my right side. I was in a wheelchair and had to go through 10 months of occupational therapy," Rickman said.

With therapy and a determined will, Rickman has regained about 85 percent of her mobility, but still cannot grip tightly with her right hand and needs the use of a cane to walk. Her disability was all the more exhausting because she was raising a 12-year-old autistic son alone while in recovery, she said.

"It was difficult with his disability, but with mine now, it's been unreal," she said.

But Rickman's medical condition isn't slowing down her ability or desire to entertain.

With her company Ziggy the Clown and Friends, Rickman maintains her love for clowning even if she can't tie balloon animals as quickly as she once did. She's also been forced to modify her costume and brightly colored facial paint to accommodate her disability.

"I wear a quarter of the makeup, and I don't wear a wig anymore," Rickman said. "The hotter my body gets, my blood pressure goes up and when my blood pressure goes up, my mobility diminishes," Rickman said.

As a longtime Victoria Jaycee who donates her time and efforts to countless community projects, Rickman was honored Sunday by the Victoria Jaycees at the Second Annual Victoria Jaycee Car and Bike Show and Carnival.

The event, which included more than 20 classic model cars, children's games, a cake walk, silent auction, magic show and $7 plates-to-go, was at the Victoria Jaycee Hall.

Victoria Jaycees President Dian Patterson and more than 60 volunteers aimed to raise money and support for Rickman.

"This is the second year we've done this benefit, and this year we picked Kim," Patterson said, describing her longtime friendship with Rickman.

Rickman said she was overwhelmed to learn she was selected as this year's recipient of proceeds from the carnival.

"I was really surprised, just in awe, really. I was curious to see how the community would respond," she said.

Through her ongoing recovery, Rickman said she's learned much about herself and the value of life.

"I have a different outlook on life now. I try not to take things for granted," she said.



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