Published in the Alameda Sun, Thursday, November 10, 2016
By Avalon Cassard
(Correction to the article: Medical Clown Project also delivers services at the California Pacific Medical Center and Rhoda Goldman Plaza.)
In the run up to Halloween, clowns have been scaring people but not all clowns are out for mischief. Alameda residents Jeffery Raz and Sherry Sherman are co-founders and part of a team of performers who bring clowning to a new level.
Raz worked as a professional clown, performing with Cirque du Soleil and Pickle Family Circus, before starting the Medical Clown Project seven years ago in collaboration with his wife, Sherman, a psychologist. The couple was looking for a way to connect their two fields when they came across medical clowning.
The team is now made up of six medical clowns who use magic, music, circus and puppetry to aid in the healing process with patients, families and medical teams. They provide their services in a variety of settings including patient rooms, intensive care, emergency departments, as well as in hallways, waiting rooms and elevators.
The clowns work mostly in the Laguna Honda Hospital, but also extend to the five On Lok Lifestyle Centers in San Francisco, helping patients with anything from Alzheimer’s to cancer.
Since starting the Medical Clown Project, the Alameda-based company has received amazing feedback from many of those they have worked with.
“Our medical team and staff were extremely positive about the impactive work of the medical clowns. They were amazed and delighted to report that some residents who had been isolated and non-communicative were ‘lighting up and talking’ for the first time in months,” said Michelle M. Fouts, Director of Pharmacy at Laguna Honda Hospital. “The Medical Clown Project is doing a great deal to not just restore joy into the hearts of patients, but also those who care for them.”
This Sunday, Nov. 13, at 4 p.m. in the Gerald Simon Theater located at Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center (375 Laguna Honda Blvd., San Francisco), the Medical Clown Project will be sponsoring the “Grand Circus Rounds,” an event filled with acrobatics, amazement and laughter for patients of the hospital.
The clowns will perform center stage, accompanied by the brass band Horns a Plenty led by Johannes Mager. The audience will get a chance to experience first hand the “therapeutic medical clowning” the project is known for.
“Often nurses, doctors, or therapists will request us to see a specific patient they feel needs a visit.” said Programs Director, Calvin Kai Ku, in a recent interview. “Perhaps the patient likes music, is feeling sad, or is known to have a playful personality that we can facilitate. Other times, an activities therapist can use the discoveries we make about a patient in future interactions. Just a few weeks ago, we helped a physical therapist get a patient up out of a chair and back into her room by playing enthusiastic music.”
Accomplishments like these prove even the small things, like playing positive music, can make a big impact when people are healing.
The Medical Clown Project, located in Alameda, is creating a happier environment for patients and families alike, spreading smiles to those in hard situations. With just six medical clowns, the team manages to touch the hearts of many and heal as only they can.
And as they say, laughter is the best medicine!