KENNEWICK — Montserrat Gonzalez smiled shyly from her bed at Kennewick General Hospital on Wednesday as she was visited by an unusual doctor on staff.
Instead of a white coat, this doctor wore white face paint, a red wig, oversized clown shoes and a yellow jumpsuit printed with the iconic Golden Arches.
Ronald McDonald wasn't just the McDonald's restaurant mascot Wednesday -- he was "Dr. Ronald," handing out prescriptions for smiles to KGH patients and staff in the hospital's rooms and halls.
The famous clown said he has been touring the Northwest for about two months, visiting hospitals and schools, performing magic tricks and offering up humor and good will wherever it's needed.
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"It's such a wonderful time of year," he said. "For any child to be in the hospital this time of year is difficult. I'm spreading some cheer."
Montserrat, 6, held up a wooden paddle with a big red paper smile -- the medicine dispensed by "Dr. Ronald" -- and sang Jingle Bells along with the jovial jester before he left to walk the halls and crack jokes with everyone he encountered.
Several times he stopped a nurse, pointed at his bulbous shoes and asked, "Do these look red and swollen to you?" One woman responded with a laugh and offered some ice.
Another asked if he had any burgers in his pocket. Without missing a beat, Ronald said, "No, but I do have some shakes if you care to have a shake," and gripped her hand for a handshake.
Several patients and staff members stopped him to have their pictures taken. Then he moved on to visit an old friend in hospital administration who has collected McDonald's toys for almost 30 years.
Mary Schumacher, executive assistant in the administration department, said she started collecting the toys in the '80s with just a few items, but her collection grew as people started giving her new ones.
She has dozens of Happy Meal toys on an office shelf, and said she has bags of them at home -- Star Wars figurines, miniature Barbies, Disney toys, Beanie Babies and myriad other promotional toys offered by the restaurant chain over the years.
She said she has no idea how many she owns.
But she was happy to see Ronald, who has contributed to her collection himself over the years and stops to visit with her every time he comes to KGH, although it has been four or five years since his last trip, he said.
While in the Tri-Cities, Ronald also visited children in a day care at Kadlec and planned to drop in at one of the area McDonald's restaurants.
Over the next few days he will be in Spokane and Leavenworth, but said he is looking forward to a holiday at home -- with the Hamburgler, Grimace, Mayor McCheese and other McDonaldland inhabitants.