As her clownish alter ego, “Trouble,” Realtor® Debbie Callahan has been visiting and entertaining terminally ill patients at Daytona Beach area hospitals for many years. She also promotes and raises funds for the local Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk and works with Children’s Medical Services in her community.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Real estate professional Debbie Callahan believes clowning around is key to dealing with life’s more serious woes.
Twenty-three years ago, armed with a bottle of whiskey and a carton of cigarettes, Debbie Callahan, a broker-associate with Adams, Cameron & Co. in Daytona Beach, braved the hospital to visit a friend who was dying of cancer.
“I couldn’t get the courage to go visit him, so I decided that if I was someone else, it would be easier,” says Callahan. She donned a red nose, stuffed a clown costume with paper in all the right places and – along with the smokes and whiskey – brought a cassette player with her.
“I turned on my cassette player and sashayed into the hospital room. My friend laughed and said, ‘Here comes trouble,’” says Callahan.
On her way out, a woman stopped her in the hallway to ask her if she would visit her husband, who also was terminally ill. “After my performance, the couple laughed, smiled and gave me a hug. The woman called to thank me and to let me know her husband passed away the very next day, but that she would always remember his last smile thanks to Trouble the Clown,” she says. “I will always cherish that moment.”
As for Trouble, “the name stuck.”
In 2010, the Daytona Beach Area Association of Realtors® named Callahan its Realtor of the Year and honored her with its Community Service Award in both 2001 and 2008. She also received a 2009 Special Merit Award in 2009 for all her volunteer efforts.
Callahan, who has been with Adams, Cameron & Co. for 23 years specializing in condo-hotels, had found her calling. For years, she visited the hospital to entertain terminally ill patients with Trouble the Clown’s antics.
In 1993, a friend told her about the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk. “Our broker, Bob Adams, would park his car midway through the walk and drop out. So, I dressed as Trouble, and we walked the five miles together so he wouldn’t quit,” she says.
Trouble hasn’t missed a year since.
This year, Callahan is doing all of her fundraising and community service in memory of Helen Adams, the company’s founder who passed away last year at age 86.
“As Trouble, I am very loud and obnoxious. Hundreds of people have taken pictures with me at the walk,” she recalls. “I’m constantly humbled by those who come up to tell me that they’ve had their picture taken with me for 20 years. Some people even tell me they wouldn’t do the walk if it weren’t for me.”
For years, Callahan served on various committees for the Making Strides organization and even served as chair of the event. Four years ago, Callahan and a friend, Rose Roberts of RE/MAX Property Centers in Daytona Beach, decided to join forces and build a team. They named the team Realtors® Sold 4 The Cause. Together, the team raises money and encourages other real estate professionals to get involved.
“Last year we raised over $22,000 and had 275 walkers on our team,” says Callahan. Fundraisers include Bra-tini Night, where male models wear pink bras.
“The bras are auctioned off. We have everyone from the police chief to mayors modeling for us. It costs them $200 to be in the event and they come back year after year,” she says. “For those who have survived breast cancer and those who have lost the hard-fought battle, we want them to know that we support them and the efforts that are being made to find a cure for cancer.”
In addition to her work with Making Strides, Callahan dresses as Trouble the Clown for Children’s Medical Services, which helps children who live below the poverty line, at its annual Christmas party. She also donates 12 to 15 bikes for the kids that she personally buys.
“I keep saying this is the last year I’ll do Trouble, but the truth is it makes me happy – so I’ll probably keep doing it until I can’t anymore,” says Callahan. “The one thing I know is that when the time comes for me to leave this world, I was able to share a lot of smiles with a lot of people.”