Sick children in various hospitals in New York are having a nice holiday with medical clowns hired to cheer them up.
The program is called Clown Care and believes in the saying 'laughter is the best medicine.' The Big Apple Circus at New York-Presbyterian Hospital runs this program. It is a residential professional clowning program started nearly 20 years ago and was introduced by Michael Christensen, co-founder of Big Apple Circus.
Benefits of clowning range from controlling stress, soothing pain and relaxing muscles and boosting the immune system.
One clown performer, Stephen Ringold, said, 'We take the kids from diagnosis to whatever fate they have.
'We go through worlds together. Sometimes I break down crying, because there's nothing I can do, really.'
Many other hospitals are applying this theory of 'laughter is the best medicine to bring some cheer to the lives of sick children during the holiday season.
These medical clowns are actually selected after auditions and the jobs are well paid. Clown Care has 84 professionals for the United States, who serve hospitals in Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston , Chicago, New Haven, CT; Providence, RI; and Washington, apart from New York.
The concept has crept to many other countries around the world, including Argentina, Australia, South Africa and Turkey; Israel's University of Haifa has started offering a bachelor's degree in medical clowning from this year.
The clowns perform three days a week throughout the year at Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, part of New York-Presbyterian. A Hanukkah party on Dec. 18, a Christmas feast two days later, and a Kwanzaa celebration on Dec. 27 is the line up for the holidays.