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Retired circus clown helps people smile by delivering food to local first responders

Retired clown says his new job bringing food to first responders is nothing to joke about
Posted at 5:31 PM, Dec 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-01 21:48:05-05

TAMPA — For most of his life, Dustin Portillo has made a living clowning around, literally.

First as a clown for Ringling Brothers, then playing Ronald McDonald. Now he is taking off the wig and red nose, and making people smile through donations to first responders.

“Well my parents would take us every year to Ringling Brothers and I was just infatuated with the clowns for some reason,” said Portillo, who is a representative with Caspers Cares.

At just the age of 18, Portillo was already achieving his life long dream of being a Ringling Brothers clown.

“Studied, practiced juggling, putting on clown makeup, I mean I lived and breathed it 24/7,” said Portillo.

He even met his husband, Brandon, through the circus, who was also a clown.

Being in the greatest show on earth was more than a career, it was a way of life.

“Performed in 3,500 shows, probably anywhere from 300-400 publicity appointments, from radio interviews, TV interviews, newspaper interviews, hospital visits, parades, festivals,” said Portillo

His seven years under the big top led Portillo to an opportunity to step into the big red shoes of one of the world’s most famous clowns, Ronald McDonald.

“Love what I did, if I can make you think about the world a little bit different, make you smile, make you a little bit happier, my job is done,” said Portillo.

However, Portillo had no idea all the joy he instilled as a clown, could be achieved just as easily in a business suit.

During the pandemic, he has helped deliver more than 105,000 meals to first responders on behalf of Caspers Cares, who own 63 restaurants.

“From my job as a performer, to what I do now is no different, my job is to bring some smiles, I’m just not wearing makeup, really that’s what it is,” said Portillo.

He said he’s not just dropping off hamburgers, he’s dropping off hope, and deep down he’ll always be a clown at heart.

He calls himself an idiot, which stands for: inspire, dream, ignite, be original and give thanks.

“And every day I live by those roles,” said Portillo.