Clowns bring cheer to patients at Elmhurst Hospital

Jackson Heights resident Satoshi "Toto" Asanuma (r.) poses with a clown from Japan at Elmhurst Hospital Center, where 30 clowns went last week to entertain patients. Photo by Rebecca Henely
By Rebecca Henely

The 30 specialists who walked through the halls of Elmhurst Hospital Center last week came to help the patients feel better, but instead of scrubs they wore bright clothes, big shoes and red noses.

“We like to think that laughter helps the healing process,” said Wayne Zimmerman, chief operating officer for the hospital, at 79-01 Broadway.

On the invitation of Cyrus Zavieh, an evening administrator at the hospital, a sample of the 200 clowns from throughout the world who came to New York for the World Clown Association Annual Convention visited the hospital to entertain pediatric and geriatric patients.

The convention was held this year from March 14 to March 18 at the LaGuardia Plaza Hotel at 104-04 Ditmars Blvd. in East Elmhurst. The 30 “Caring Clowns” who turned up at the hospital included some who came from as far away as Japan and England. The assemblage traipsed through the halls, telling jokes and distributing stickers to the patients, their families and even members of the staff, who accompanied the clowns while wearing plastic neckties and stickers on their faces.

Zavieh, who also works as a clown, said he really wanted to bring clowns to the hospital. He said making patients laugh helps them forget about their pain for a little while.

“You just see this magical smile on this kid’s face,” Zavieh said. “It’s just incredible.”

The clowns also visited Bellevue Hospital Center in Manhattan and the Coler-Goldwater Specialty Hospital and Nursing Facility on Roosevelt Island.

Kosuke Omune, a clown from Japan known as “K,” said it was good for him to ply his trade in America, which enables him to see another culture and another people. Yet he did not find language a barrier to making the patients laugh.

“Children are the same around the world,” Omune said.

After entertaining patients, the clowns received a proclamation from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, declaring March 13 to March 19 “Make ’em Laugh — New York City Clown Week.”

“Clowns have always been ambassadors of goodwill to people of all ages,” the proclamation said.

Richard Snowberg, the past president of the World Clown Association, thanked the hospital for the chance to visit in a speech.

“We are very grateful for this opportunity to share our gifts of joy and laughter,” he said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

More from Around New York