Hearts and Noses Hospital Troupe Brings Joy to Children

August 20, 2013
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When Tic Toc the Medical Clown enters a child patient’s hospital room, she picks up the energy of her surroundings and her imagination soars. Tic Toc has a little red nose, a big wrist watch, and rainbow ribbons in her pigtails. She looks at the child tenderly with the mindset of, “There you are. I’ve been looking for you. You’re my best friend.”

Tic Toc is one of 12 medical clowns who work with the Hearts & Noses Hospital Clown Troupe. Founded in 1997, Hearts & Noses regularly visit the Boston Medical Center, the Franciscan Children’s Hospital, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, the Massachusetts Hospital School, and participates in events for children who are ill.

Before the clowns invite children into the Clown World, they ask them for permission to be there. This is important to Tic Toc and the others because it gives children an opportunity to express their opinions.

“We connect with the child,” says Cheryl Lekousi, also known as Tic Toc. “My clown character is a little kid full of silliness.”

Lekousi, who runs a child-care program, enjoys talking to the children about their interests and school. She likes learning about hobbies the children love but are unable to do at the time. The children become the experts and teachers, which empowers them.

Hearts & Noses offers child-centered visits, and do not focus on the illness or disability; the clowns gently play through obstacles.

“We try to change the mood of the room and play with the child, leaving all the medical stuff to the side,” Lekousi says. “The imagination can go anywhere.”

There was a teen who was disappointed because he was about to receive his driver’s license but was unable to because he was in the hospital. Tic Toc put his parents at the foot of the bed for wheels, and blew on a kazoo, which makes a fantastic engine. She dug into her cavernous pocket and pulled out an imaginary steering wheel and tossed keys to the boy, who passed his clown car drivers license test.

In the clown world, anything is possible.

There was a child in the burn unit who had lost much of his face and hair, and parts of his fingers, so Tic Toc brought him hand puppets to work on his motor skills and make him smile.

“We’re all passionate about this work. This is a very unique and special thing that we can do,” says Lekousi. “Sometimes it’s nice and sweet, but other times it’s profound.”

The troupe includes a retired medical doctor, nurses, a real estate agent, a lawyer, and a retired sign language teacher, who learn over 60 routines, improvise poems using the children’s names, and sing children’s favorite songs.   To donate to Hearts & Noses or learn more about the clown troupe, visit www.HeartsAndNoses.Org or call 877-CLOWN12.

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