Clown therapists healing one smile at a time

January 10, 2011 8:22:08 AM PST
We often hear that children are resilient, but being in the hospital and being sick is no fun at all. A new program at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital is helping to distract them from the pain and discomfort one smile at a time.

Dan Griffiths and Danielle Conover are no ordinary doctor or nurse. At UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital, they're better known as Dr. Schnozensoop and Nurse Bumble from the San Francisco based organization ClownZero.

"Our program, we're not for profit community supported organization and we're dedicated to bettering the lives of children and families through humanitarian clowning and therapeutic performing arts," said ClownZero Director Dan Griffiths.

The therapeutic clowns visit this children's hospital twice a week and see dozens of kids each time. Kids, like 5-year-old Nicky Ayala, who just had surgery in his jaw and neck after an infection developed from a tonsillectomy.

"He's got a smile. We got a smile there on his face. It was a long time for him not smiling like that," said Nicky's mother Angela Gonzalez.

And often times, the smiles turn into pure happiness. All the pain, the suffering, the discomfort - forgotten at least for a moment.

"What did they do with you?" asked ABC7's Janelle Wang.

"They danced with me," said 8-year-old Casandra Lozano.

"How does it make you feel?" asked Wang.

"Good," said Lozano.

That's one of the main reasons why UCSF incorporated the program. Michael Towne is the manager of Child Life Services at the Children's Hospital.

"We've already seen that ClownZero brings humor and joy to the children whenever they are here. They're very popular. In fact the teachers are sort of like, ohh - we don't want to compete with the clowns," said Towne.

Dr. Schnozensoop and Nurse Bumble may be popular, but they just think they have the best job in the world. And children, of all ages, are thankful for their visits.

"It's nice for very little kids. I'm a little older, but for the little kids, they must entertain them a lot more," said 16-year-old Alfonso Garcia.