Matthew Holt

Send in the Clowns!

David is a long time friend and occassional contributor to THCB. And he politely asked if the THCB audience would be interested in helping contribute to the charity he works with–please read and give what you can–Matthew Holt

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The Hearts & Noses Hospital Clown Troupe provides professionally trained volunteer clowns to hospitalized children in Greater Boston and training for other clown troupes worldwide. I’m chairman of the board of directors and hope you will join me in supporting the work of the clowns by making a donation.

Hospitalized children often experience stress, fear, and anxiety, which can become a barrier to healing. Hearts & Noses clowns are specially trained to provide relief for ill children and respite for their families. Our clowns strive to uncover the hidden spirit of joy and the creative energy that lives in the heart and soul of children− a spirit that is often dampened by the sterile and sometimes frightening clinical environment. Our clowns’ central goal is to engage, empower and give choices to hospitalized children.

After a life-changing trip to Russia with famous clown and physician Patch Adams, troupe founder Jeannie Lindheim began offering a series of seminars on hospital clowning in the 1990s. Lindheim, an actor, began training clowns to visit ill and disabled children at Boston area hospitals. She formed the Clown Troupe and worked diligently to build a strong, professionally-trained group of volunteers. More than a decade later, our clowns are still all volunteers and we have helped build clown troupes throughout the world.


The troupe continues to offer training workshops and has published The Art & Joy of Hospital Clowning Manual and DVD for those who can’t make it to Boston.

We meet youngsters when they are most powerless and most vulnerable — dealing with medical issues (acute or chronic) that force them into a hospital or institutional health care setting. Using theater arts, music, and improvisational play, our clowns engage children in interactions that lighten their spirits and take them away, for a period of time, from the hard job of getting well. In the process, our clowns open up the child’s will to recover, turning even the most withdrawn patient into one who is more optimistic and more receptive to the treatment prescribed by the medical team.

Hearts & Noses hospital clowns train for two years and work closely with artistic specialists, child development specialists and our Medical Director, Michael Agus, MD, Director, Medicine Intensive Care at Children’s Hospital Boston. Last year we focused our ongoing training sessions on child development topics and brought in experts to teach us how to better communicate with children who have special needs, particularly those who are on the Autism Spectrum. In the coming year we hope to expand our training to other serious disabilities and special conditions.

The best way to explain what we do is to share a story of an actual clown visit. As told by one of our clowns:

We have seen a little boy, Benjamin, for years. He is 10 years old. He can’t move his hands, and is either in bed or in a reclining wheelchair. He beams every time he sees our clowns. His one foot and toes act as his hand. He makes magic tricks work by tap- ping our tricks with his foot.

Today we visit him. I play a silent clown. My partner, Poppy says, “Bloopers has lost her voice.” We look in my pockets, behind the nurse’s counter…everywhere for my voice.

Benjamin says, “I will say the magic word.” He does and my voice returns. He takes cards we give him with his toes. Benjamin never wants us to leave when we visit and always says, “One more magic trick?”

We visit all the children on the floors and then talk about our visits in the lobby when we are finished seeing all of the children. I am about to leave the hospital. I look through my clown bag and realize I have left my magic box up on the floor where Benjamin lives. So I take the elevator to his floor.

Benjamin is eating lunch and beams when he sees me. I pretend I have lost my voice again. He laughs and laughs. He says the magic word; my voice returns. I see my magic box on the counter. I smile at him and wave a huge wave. As I dash down the hall leaving, he yells, “I love you!”

You can read more stories like this on our website where the contributions of our funders are gratefully acknowledged.

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Professional clowns are truly one-of-a-kind characters. As an artist and performer, a clown is someone who makes people laugh, smile, and feel entertained.