Big Bird Puppeteer Caroll Spinney Recalls Heartbreaking Story of Dying Fan


— — The man behind Big Bird has shared a moving story of how he brought joy to a dying fan in the final moments of his young life.

Caroll Spinney, who most people know by her “Sesame Street” alter ego, hosted an “ask me anything” interview on Reddit this afternoon while promoting a documentary about her life and the first caller brought about a truly heartbreaking revelation.

Asked about his most meaningful interaction with a child, Spinney told what he called a “very sad story, but it’s real.”

Spinney said he received a letter asking him to call a 5-year-old boy named Joey who was “so sick the little boy knew he was dying”.

“He said the only thing that comforted him in his fading state was seeing Big Bird on TV,” Spinney wrote of the man who wrote to him.

Caroll Spinney, who plays Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, is interviewed during a break after taping an episode of Sesame Street in New York, April 10, 2008.

Mark Lennihan/AP Photo

Spinney said it ‘took a while to search for a phone, as this was before cell phones’ – but when he called and spoke to him as Big Bird, their conversation lasted around ten minutes.

“He said, ‘Thank you for calling me Big Bird. You’re my friend. You make me happy,'” Spinney wrote.

The boy’s condition had by then deteriorated to the point that doctors called his parents ‘because they did not know how long he would last,’ Spinney wrote, and the puppeteer received a note from thanks from the boy’s father shortly. after.

The father reportedly told Spinney that “he hadn’t seen him smile since October, and that was March – and when the phone was hung up, he said ‘Big Bird called me! That’s my friend,'” he wrote.

“We haven’t seen our baby boy smile in MONTHS. He smiled as he died. It was a gift to us. Thank you,” the father reportedly wrote.

Spinney then told more stories from nearly half a century of playing as Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, reflecting on the impact the characters have on children’s lives.

“We’re not trying to fool them, we’re just trying to entertain them and let them know that their friend Big Bird isn’t just a man in a giant suit,” he wrote in the Reddit AMA.


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