Laughter League Holds Benefit to Continue Using Laughter as Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital

On Thursday, Nov. 1, the Laughter League Healthcare Clown team from Boston Children’s Hospital put on “Laughter League Live,” a comedy benefit to raise money to reach more children at Boston Children’s Hospital.

The Laughter League provides “professional healthcare clowns” at the children’s hospital Monday through Friday, according to Tiffany Riley, Laughter League co-founder and president.

“We see patients and their families in every scenario from outpatient clinic to intensive care unit,” Riley said. By using the healing power of lighter to “uplift their world” and empower them, the clowns make the children forget that they are sick and in the hospital. Riley added that the clowns are brought in by medical staff to help with distraction techniques during such things as blood drawing, so the medical professionals can better focus on the task at hand.

“Kids love it, and parents love it too,” she said.

The benefit, which was held at the Virginia Wimberly Theatre at the Calderwood Pavillion at the Boston Center for the Arts, was an evening of comedy and circus skills, as well as variety arts meant to “inspire laughter,” Riley said. The show featured 12 of the Laughter League clowns, as well as young stars from Circus Smirkus in Vermont and some kids from Boston Children’s Hospital. Riley is a clown herself, and performed at the benefit as “Dr. Slappy.”

The Laughter League has been working for over 22 years to make the hospital a more enjoyable experience for children. Riley said that parents will often say, “I haven’t seen my kid laugh in weeks,” but after a visit with the clowns—especially for those who have to make regular visits to the hospital—many children will say, “those are my clowns.” She said there is a relationship that the children develop with the clowns, which puts them at the center of attention in “a very positive way.”

“We are a regular part of the fabric [at Boston Children’s Hospital],” Riley said. “Our programs instill moments of joy when illness and disease take a back seat to simply being a kid.”

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