ClownZero Brings Joy to Hospitalized Kids


Rex board member Cliff Palefsky first connected with ClownZero, a 2012 Rex grant recipient,  when he went to see a cabaret production that the son of a friend was involved with. Several members of ClownZero were on the bill; in the course of conversation with them, Palefsky learned about the group’s work with hospitalized kids at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital.

“Sick kids, kids in the hospital, tear at my heartstrings,” says Palefsky, whose wife is a pediatrician and who gravitates to programs that help kids in suggesting possible grantees to Rex. “Few things get to me in a visceral way as much as kids with serious illnesses do.

“Uplifting spirits can help heal,” he adds, noting that Rex has a long history of funding clowns, from Camp Winnarainbow to Clowns Without Borders. “ClownZero is a great little organization that’s just getting started. What they’re doing can be replicated anywhere, so I want to encourage them.”

ClownZero director Dan Griffiths recently gave us this update of how they’re putting Rex’s grant to good use:

ClownZero clowning for hospitalized kids

ClownZero Director Dan Griffiths and visiting Czech artist Marka Mikova clowning at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital.

Last year, The Rex Foundation generously awarded our small not for profit organization ClownZero with our first ever grant. This gift served to propel us into a new phase of our work in the community. Since April, 2012 we have expanded our vision of a program at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital and occasional visits to charitable institutions in the Bay Area, to a program that is prepared to dispatch therapeutic artists to multiple locations serving a diverse population including: The Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford, SF General Hospital, BACS (Bay Area Community Services), DISH Delivering Innovation in Supportive Housing, Family House, St. Joseph Center for Children and Families, Aegis Living and San Francisco Veterans Hospital.

This year, we were also fortunate to host Marka Mikova, a Fulbright Scholar and puppeteer from the Czech Republic, as a part of our Healing Through Humor program at UCSF. Marka’s work using Puppet Theater in a hospital setting was a wonderful complement to clowning and the collaboration was a fruitful one both for ClownZero and the patients at UCSF.

The idea that specifically and sensitively trained clowns/artists have a special ability to improve the health and lives of hospitalized children and adults has been gaining popularity through the current trend of “wellness” as a critical part of care in a hospital setting. We are hopeful that hospitals in the United States are starting to understand that laughter, improvisation, novelty and play are hugely beneficial as a means of improving the quality of healing that patients can have.

A portion of Rex Foundation’s generous gift allowed ClownZero to meet with two business consultants plus delivering the work of numerous Therapeutic Arts Specialists to Bay Area people in need. We have been re-inspired by the work as it relates directly to healing and community. We have assembled a solid core group of Therapeutic clowns, all extremely skilled and sensitive to the work that we practice. With this group we are now poised to use our organization to serve an even broader population who we believe will greatly benefit from the healing power of laughter and play.

Thanks for your help!!!