February 22, 2013
I Care: Clown-care to feed the soul

20130220_AOC_ICareClown_266w.jpgThe activity room is dim at Sky Park Gardens Assisted Living in South Sacramento until an orange-clad clown named Sammie sweeps in as sweet as the sunshine. Quietly, compassionately she seeks a connection with each senior or disabled person in the room. She is goofy, she laughs, she plays with them. She sings "Let Me Call you Sweetheart," looking deep into the teary eyes of a tired soul.
"Would you like to dance," she asks Andrew Robertson, right, who is hesitant at first but can't resist her coaxing. Suzanna Hoye is a professional clown with part of her business being "clown care" for seniors. As the economy faltered some facilities could no longer afford to hire her, but Hoye still comes. "How many people are lonely and need that connection?" she says. "It's feeding my soul to be so close to people and the extra attention is so important."


Hoye was trained as a clown in the Netherlands, in a different style than the boistrous over-the-top clowning style that is typical in the United States. Her makeup is simple and cheerful, and only takes five minutes to apply. She says she's not a circus clown that does tricks. "I cannot juggle and I hate balloons," she says. Her main tool is her ukelele. One could hardly be afraid of such a gentle, approachable clown.
"If you respect people's boundaries you will win them over," Hoye says. "You disarm people that way because they know you are safe."

20130220_AOC_ICareClown_091w.jpgHoye is sensitive to the moods of those around her and adapts her clowning to the individuals she encounters. "I go with whatever they come up with. I try to have them be the ones in control of what's going to happen," she says. "I empower them to be the director. They feel seen in that moment."
Employing her magic in this way Hoye has heard seniors who hadn't spoken in years speak in full sentences and seen people with alzheimers or dementia regain their memory - if even for a second.

20130220_AOC_ICareClown_336w.jpgHoye's training began in 1999. She then went on tour with Patch Adams in Russia and discovered the benefit clowning can have for seniors. Returning to the Netherlands she worked full time performing in homes for the elderly for 8 years. Now, living in the U.S. she splits her clowning between clown care and other clowning activities. For more information on Sammie the clown please visit http://www.facebook.com/WayOfTheClown.

Do you know someone who gives of themselves to help others? Please send suggestions for the I Care column to Autumn Payne at apayne@sacbee.com

About Comments

Reader comments on Sacbee.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Sacramento Bee. If you see an objectionable comment, click the "report abuse" button below it. We will delete comments containing inappropriate links, obscenities, hate speech, and personal attacks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. See more about comments here.

What You Should Know About Comments on Sacbee.com

Sacbee.com is happy to provide a forum for reader interaction, discussion, feedback and reaction to our stories. However, we reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments or ban users who can't play nice. (See our full terms of service here.)

Here are some rules of the road:

• Keep your comments civil. Don't insult one another or the subjects of our articles. If you think a comment violates our guidelines click the "report abuse" button to notify the moderators. Responding to the comment will only encourage bad behavior.

• Don't use profanities, vulgarities or hate speech. This is a general interest news site. Sometimes, there are children present. Don't say anything in a way you wouldn't want your own child to hear.

• Do not attack other users; focus your comments on issues, not individuals.

• Stay on topic. Only post comments relevant to the article at hand. If you want to discuss an issue with a specific user, click on his profile name and send him a direct message.

• Do not copy and paste outside material into the comment box.

• Don't repeat the same comment over and over. We heard you the first time.

• Do not use the commenting system for advertising. That's spam and it isn't allowed.

• Don't use all capital letters. That's akin to yelling and not appreciated by the audience.

You should also know that The Sacramento Bee does not screen comments before they are posted. You are more likely to see inappropriate comments before our staff does, so we ask that you click the "report abuse" button to submit those comments for moderator review. You also may notify us via email at feedback@sacbee.com. Note the headline on which the comment is made and tell us the profile name of the user who made the comment. Remember, comment moderation is subjective. You may find some material objectionable that we won't and vice versa.

If you submit a comment, the user name of your account will appear along with it. Users cannot remove their own comments once they have submitted them, but you may ask our staff to retract one of your comments by sending an email to feedback@sacbee.com. Again, make sure you note the headline on which the comment is made and tell us your profile name.

hide comments

On October 14, The Sacramento Bee will temporarily remove commenting from sacbee.com. While we design the upgrade, we encourage you to tell us what you like and don't like about commenting on sacbee.com and other websites. We've heard from hundreds of you already and we're listening. Please continue to add your thoughts and questions here. We also encourage you to write Letters to the Editor on this and other topics.