Penn State’s Clown Nose Club has nothing to do with clowns, except making passersby happy.
Rain fell on State College, Pa., as junior Danielle Long accompanied a stranger to class under a bright yellow umbrella.
These umbrella taxis are one of several small acts of kindness Long has organized as president of the Penn State Clown Nose Club, whose members at each event don a red foam ball in the center of their face.
You can find variations of this club at colleges nationwide. From passing out lollipops to distributing free iced tea and hugs outside the library at finals, these student groups aim to increase peers’ happiness throughout the academic year.
“It’s important that people stop and realize that sometimes a smile is the most important thing,” said Northwestern University senior Kyle Richardson, 23. “It’s important to take time off and not be so wound up all the time.”
Quick, simple attempts to make people feel special dominate these clubs’ agendas. With inexpensive events, such as a flash mob or free compliments, these organizations help to improve student morale, said Richardson, executive board member of Northwestern’s Happiness Club.
Not affiliated with their campus mental health services, Northwestern’s Happiness Club began in 2007 to ease stress on the academics-driven campus, Richardson said.
As the Evanston, Ill., campus warms up this quarter, Happiness Club will host kite-flying over the lakefill, a biannual event they have hosted for a couple years, former club president Alex Wilson, 22, said. The club has many other happiness-inducing events planned, including a therapy dog session, sand castle competition and a s’more bonfire.
Since the club was founded at Northwestern, other colleges have adopted the Happiness Club idea.
University of Texas–Austin freshman Michael Nguyen, 18, created a Happiness Club at his school three weeks ago. Based on ideas shared by Wilson, Nguyen distributed 1,000 smiley-face stickers on his campus recently.
“I want to see positivity be a part of everyday life, where you’re not necessarily part of the club but you’re spreading happiness in general,” Nguyen said.
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