Clown Care

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What is the Big Apple Circus Clown Care?

The Big Apple Circus Clown Care is a community outreach program of The Big Apple Circus that brings the joy and excitement of classical circus clowning to the bedsides of hospitalized children five days a week, 50 weeks a year.

Using juggling, comedy, magic and music, specially trained "doctors of delight" make "clown rounds," a parody of medical rounds where the healing power of humor is the chief medical treatment. In partnership with each hospital's medical staff, these professional performers work one-on-one with acutely and chronically ill children, their parents and hospital staff to help ease the stress of illness by reintroducing laughter and fun as natural parts of everyday life.

With doctors' bags full of bubbles, red noses and rubber chickens, the Clown Care professional performers visit:

  • Inpatient units
  • Intensive care units
  • Outpatient clinics
  • Acute care waiting rooms
  • Units specializing in such areas as physical therapy, bone marrow transplant, burn treatment and pediatric AIDS
  • Physical therapy
  • Bone marrow transplant
  • Burn treatment
  • Pediatric AIDS

Who are the Clown Care Doctors?

All of the Clown Care doctors are experienced professional artists -- not volunteers -- with specialties ranging from music to magic. They have auditioned and been selected for their high levels of artistry and sensitivity.

All Clown Care performers undergo a rigorous six-month training program in hospital protocol. Regular creative, procedural and program reviews ensure consistently high quality for all Clown Care doctors.

 
The Clown Care doctors at Boston Children's Hospital are:

  • Dr. Mhrahauer
  • Dr. Kookoo
  • Dr. Mal Adjusted
  • Dr. Gonzo
  • Dr. Gon Golfin
  • Dr. Gracie
  • Dr. Dazzle
  • Nurse BB
  • Dr. Boomarang

 
What Can Clown Doctors Do That Medical Doctors Can't?

1) First and foremost, clown doctors can be clowns
In the circus ring, the ringmaster is the authority figure; therefore, the focus of clown parody. In the hospital, the doctors, nurses, rules, charts and procedures become the target for clown irreverence. Performing such clownical procedures, such as red nose transplants, kitty cat scans, chocolate milk transfusions and plate-spinning platelet tests, the "doctors of delight" reduce the fear and anxiety associated with the hospital experience by demystifying even the most complicated, serious medical treatments.

2) Clown doctors put the child in control
Unlike medical staff who come and go based on the procedural timetable, the clowns only enter a child's room if invited. This gives hospitalized children one instance where they get to decide what is best for him or her.

3) Clown doctors can provide a source of renewed motivation for children in therapy
Doctors and therapists increasingly note that a visit from a "doctor of delight" is sometimes just what a child needs during a painful or tedious procedure or during protracted, intensive physical and occupational therapy. A child can get excited about reaching for a bubble blown by a clown, even if it involves the same movement that he or she was resisting only moments earlier.

4) Clown doctors "treat" the patient's family and hospital staff as well
Clowns, who can and will say anything on their minds, give everyone permission to look beyond the immediate fear, tension or tedium to find the silly within the serious or the funny inside the frightening. As a result, good humor spreads engendering kindness, patience and an awareness that anything is possible. With the universal language of laughter, clown doctors communicate with children of all ages.

How Does the Clown Care "Operate"?

Clown Care has programs in hospitals throughout New York's metropolitan area and major "magnet" children's hospitals throughout the country. Affiliate programs begun by Big Apple Circus Clown Care-trained performers operate in Paris, France, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wiesbaden and Germany. The Big Apple Circus Clown Care is supported by host-hospitals and by generous gifts from foundations, corporations and individuals.

The Big Apple Circus Clown Care at Boston Children's Hospital is generously supported through a gift from the Children's Hospital League.

About the Big Apple Circus

The Big Apple Circus is America's preeminent performing arts organization devoted to classical circus acts. Its intimate, one-ring performances are seen by more than 500,000 people per year.

Founded in 1977, the circus has won numerous awards, including an OBIE Award for Artistic Excellence and a Challenge Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The Clown Care has been recognized with the Raoul Wallenberg Humanitarian Award and the Red Skelton Award.

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The future of pediatrics will be forged by thinking differently, breaking paradigms and joining together in a shared vision of tackling the toughest challenges before us.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO
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