‘Toy Doctor’ brings joy and gifts to Shriners

Norman Brown has been delivering toys in Montreal pediatric hospitals for 28 years.

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Olivier Deshaies took his young son to Shriners Hospital for Children on Wednesday morning for a doctor’s appointment.


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But before 14-month-old Renaud met with the surgeon, he had an impromptu meeting with another “doctor” who was much more attractive.

“Do you want a toy?” Norman Brown asked the hypnotized young man, offering him a pop-up farm animal game.

Known as the Toy Doctor, Brown has been spreading smiles and Christmas cheer to children in Montreal pediatric hospitals for 28 years.

“It makes me feel like a kid again,” said Brown, who was wearing a lab coat and a stethoscope around his neck.

“They don’t know what’s going on with their bodies and (sometimes) they don’t feel good. I love putting smiles on their faces. “

Brown got his nickname back in 1993, after he repaired a broken toy that was about to be discarded by a 12-year-old boy.


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He convinced the boy not to throw it away and decided to repair it while he was in his friend’s playroom in the Côte-des-Neiges. When he saw the 12-year-old the next day, he returned the reconditioned toy.

“He played with it and the toy doctor called me,” Brown, 70, recalled during an interview. “I didn’t know I was going to get that far.”

In his youth, Brown would mend old toys that he found in the Salvation Army and distributed them to children in hospitals around Christmas.

During the year, he visits pharmacies armed with news clippings about his charitable work and often leaves with free toys donated by the manager.

His friends help out too, and Brown, a retired maintenance worker, buys some toys himself.

Brown only visits the Shriners these days, but COVID-19 protocols kept him from getting too close to kids this year.


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Toy Doctor Norman Brown jokingly takes the pulse of gifts he gives to patients at the Shriners Hospital for Children in Montreal on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021.
Toy Doctor Norman Brown jokingly takes the pulse of gifts he gives to patients at the Shriners Hospital for Children in Montreal on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021. Photo by John Mahoney /Montreal Gazette

Instead, hospital staff set up a table in the lobby where Brown handed out board games, Hot Wheels, Lego and teddy bears to children with medical appointments.

“The toy doctor always makes sure Christmas is special for the kids at the hospital,” said Emmanuelle Rondeau, Shriners director of business development.

Although he was unable to be at his bedside this year, Brown hopes to return to the ward next year.

“I still have a lot of mileage left,” he said. “The world is upside down right now. Children still get sick and still need smiles on their faces. That’s what I’m doing.”

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