Dizzy cheerleader more than just clowning around


By Linda Green

United Methodist News Service

She’s a real estate agent by day, a clown by night and a member of an inaugural Web site dedicated to strong women.

Ricki Whittle, 60, is among 34 women who do good things for others and are profiled in a collection that recognizes and encourages women to be strong in mind, body and spirit. The women on the Web site, www.standstrong.com, differ in interests and professions — most are “ordinary” women while some are celebrities — but each of them is contributing to women in extraordinary ways.

Like the other women highlighted, Whittle, a member of First United Methodist Church in Corpus Christi, Texas, was nominated by a friend. The site is a product of Mission Pharmacal Co., maker of Citracal calcium citrate, a supplement to help strengthen bones and prevent osteoporosis.

“Being a member of the inaugural group on the site is certainly an honor,” she said. “… I’m certainly proud to be a woman on this site. It is a powerful statement to be selected as one of the women to represent these other strong women all over the United States.

She views it “as a kind of opportunity to inspire other people to . . . go on that Web site and click on it and be able to nominate some of the people who have been important in their lives . . . someone that has made a difference to them,” she said.

Professionally, Whittle is a real estate agent, but she makes a difference in the lives of sick children as Izzy the Dizzy Cheerleader, a clown. She and a group of women came together 10 years ago as “Clowns Who Care.”

The group organized “to clown specifically at Driscoll’s Children’s Hospitals,” she said. “It’s an opportunity for us to give the gift of laughter to hundreds, actually thousands of sick children and their families.”

She said her persona as the cheerleading clown and her community involvement led to her nomination.

When she transforms into Izzy the clown, she walks into a room and people recognize her as a cheerleader. “Those pompoms kind of give it away,” she says. “I’m able to walk into a room there and be able to say, ‘I’m here to cheer you up.’ … I’m able to give my ‘two bits, four bits’ cheers and all that kind of stuff. We have a lot of fun with those kiddos.” She says she’s put a lot of time, dedication and effort over the last 60 years toward seeing what she could do within her community in Corpus Christi.

Mission Pharmacal, a San Antonio-based company, said it is important to recognize the women for all they have accomplished. Since a surgeon general’s recent warning about osteoporosis, the company has expanded efforts to educate consumers about how they can avoid this bone-weakening disease, which disproportionately affects women.

The strong women Web site “was created as a continuation of our ongoing commitment to provide an effective framework of support for women and to create a community of women who stand strong in their everyday lives,” said Bennett Kennedy, product manager of Citracal.

Whittle said forging ahead through adversities, especially after a horrendous car accident involving her husband, made her strong. She had to take on the leadership role and be the strength for her family.

She uses the same qualities in her mortgage business, which she has operated for six years. She has not allowed adversity to stop her but has instead “looked for how are we going to do this and how are we going to grow this,” she said. For her, the business affords opportunities “to improve our lives (and) those lives of people that we come in contact” with.

Whittle undergirds her business with a sense of spirituality, “of being able to listen to people with kindness in my heart ...with the primary goal (being) to figure out a way to put someone into a home,” she said.

Asked if she considers herself extraordinary, Whittle said she sees all women that way.

“From the time we were born, we’ve been required to be extraordinary ... playing, keeping a lot of balls in the air and figuring out... which of those balls is rubber and which ones can bounce, and you pick them up on the second bounce. You know, that’s just kind of who we are as women.”