MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Sick kids are no laughing matter, but the Big Apple Circus’s Clown Care Program uses the healing power of humor to help kids at Miami Children’s Hospital.

For kids at MCH, humor is always the right prescription. That’s where these specially trained clowns come in. Deborah Kaufmann is the Associate Creative Director Big Apple Circus Community Programs and said the clowns give kids the chance to just be a kid again for a few moments.

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“So there are a lot of difficult things the children are going through and we come in and we engage their sense of play and they get to be children.”

Since 1986, the Big Apple Circus has been sending out specially trained clown “doctors”, prescribing smiles at every stop.

Kaufmann said it takes a special person to be this type of clown.

“We look at a wonderful variety of skills, which we love to add into the mix. Magic, music, juggling, puppetry, great story telling, great improv skills, that’s a really important skill, everyone needs to be a great improviser.”

With all the tests and machines, hospitals can be scary, especially for children. So these clowns collaborate with doctors to perform their own clown rounds. They hope to ease the sterile atmosphere by laughter and smiles.

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“It’s a great distraction and it’s just loads of fun for them. And the giggles start almost upon seeing them through the side of your eye,” said Lynn Heyman, Dir. of Volunteer Resources at Miami Children’s Hospital.

It means the world to these kids and these clowns. Jay Stuart, or Clown Doc Skeeter, spent many years performing with various circuses before deciding it was time to embark on a new experience.

“I had to learn what was appropriate in the room, I had to learn what it was about me that would work up close, because I was used to a big clown working in the circus, that was anonymous. It’s one of the most important things I have ever done in my life, is like you feel like you are giving something back.”

The Big Apple Circus Clown Care Program keeps growing. Today 80 clown doctors visit 14 facilities across the U.S., meeting more than 225,000 children each year.


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