Thank you so much for your interest in being a clown and spreading happiness and fun throughout hospitals and retirement homes. I speak for all of the clowns in our group when I tell you that sometimes it is the hardest thing we have ever done and it is also the best and most rewarding thing we have ever done.
You read in the Family Circle article how our clown group began. It will amaze you how your group will formulate. You start it and the rest will come. Keep passing the word around and the 'right' people will show up. The first thing you need to do is call the volunteer director of the hospital, rest home or wherever you plan to clown. Probably, they will need to do a background search on each of you and give you the specific instructions to comply with their volunteers.
It is really not necessary to go to clown school. Certainly, you can learn a lot as far as magic, balloon animals, etc. Most hospitals will not allow latex balloons and magic requires time and concentration that most sick children are unable to give.
We have had to learn by trial and error. One of the local banks sponsors us with the purchase of our toys. They cost an average 40 to 60 cents per toy. The hospital furnishes Polaroid cameras and film. The volunteer that goes with us takes a picture of the clowns with the child. The favorite toy for older children is a plastic ice cream cone that shoots a foam ice cream ball. The younger children like the small soft stuffed animals. All of the children like clown stickers. We order our toys and stickers from Oriental Trading. Go online and request a catalog.
Most of the time, children in hospitals are too ill to endure too much of our entertainment. We have found it best to knock and ask permission to enter. If a child looks at all fearful we back out. Most of the clowns have a silly animal or a rubber chicken and we use that as an entrée. We tease very lightly and usually can make them smile and laugh. Remember, the parents need this as much as the children.
There are over 30 clowns in our group. Usually there are 2 to 4 clowns per time. We clown on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings. In rotation we each clown about once every 4 weeks. One of the clowns is responsible for scheduling. If a clown sees that they are going to be unable to make it, they must find a substitute. Also, we have a rule that if a clown feels that they are going to become too emotional in a sad situation, they must not only leave the room but the hospital.
Our clown costumes are extremely bright colors with a lot of feathers and sequins. We each have a persona, i.e. Madame Flutterby, Sassy the Sheriff, The Tooth Fairy. You can go as elaborate or as inexpensive as you wish. We usually have two neckpieces, ruffles-collars, which are detachable from our costumes. Make up can collect on them and they will need to be changed periodically. Some of our clowns have the real hand crafted clown shoes and some have big tennis shoes that they have sequined and jeweled. You can order your wigs and make up online. Just go online and do a search for 'clowns' and that will lead to all web sites. We use long colored false eyelashes. Be careful to apply them above your regular lashes. Experiment with applying your makeup. Eyelash glue can also apply your fake red nose. It is best to pat the foundation on. All of this can be removed with baby oil. Your library will have clown faces or order a book online. Believe me, after you experiment a few times, you will find it easy.
There are many web sites that sell clown costumes and accessories. Clown school can also be obtained online. We have purchased a lot of our goods through the internet.
I will be happy to design your costumes and send you the sketch. Just decide what you want to be and let me know. Your fabric can be anything from cotton to sequin cloth. If you live in a warm climate, you might want to keep it light weight. Most of my costumes are not washable or dry cleanable. I turn them inside out and let them air after I wear them. All of these fabrics, feathers and sequin banding can be purchased in your local fabric shop. If you want more elaborate, go to Southern Importers. They will send you a catalog. Any theatrical fabric web site should have a catalog.
We are hoping that some of you will consider clowning for a rest home, veterans' hospital, etc. You would probably be a big hit and bring a lot of joy. Your favors could be crossword puzzles, cards, paper fans. It is a new field and we would like to hear about it.
All of us clowns want to thank you for the tremendous response to the Family Circle article. You have touched our hearts and made us realize again how fortunate we are to live in a country where we can put on a red nose and a green wig and go make someone happy. Turn your "play switch" on and have some fun.
Please feel free to write and ask for any ideas and advice or tell us what you are up to with your clowning.
May God bless you,
Mary Anne Sinclair and The Clowns Who Care