It’s an old song title, but says it better than anything else…"Everybody Loves a Clown", and no one knows this better than Dr. Neal Goldberg a psychologist with a keen interest in teens and the difficulties they encounter as they grow to adulthood. Previous diary entries have told the story of Neal and his organization Lev Leytzan-Compassionate Clown Alley which offers medical clown training to many teens and young adults in the metropolitan New York area.
In addition to Lev Leytzan’s local programs which bring the clowns to hospitals, nursing homes and even to schools where they run a very successful fire-safety program for school-age children, the group has one additional program that we especially admire. The Ambassador Program brings these talented teens to what can best be described as "emotionally needy" communities outside of the United States, particularly in Eastern Europe. In the past the group has visited countries such as Hungary and Romania, in addition to their annual trip to Israel.
To truly understand the significance of the Ambassador Program we want to share the story of a visit the clowns made to an elderly Shoah survivor in Hungary this past summer. The woman, disabled and confined to her 6th floor apartment, received the clowns and was able, even briefly, to forget her loneliness and traumatic past. When the group began to take leave of her apartment, she immediately begged them to get her copies of the pictures they had taken while frolicking around. In fact, her request was more like a pleading as she exclaimed, "I want to remember! I want to remember!" What a special gift these kids left behind.
So, when Neal recently shared that the clowns had been invited to visit Berlin in a few months, but that the costs of the trip would be prohibitive, we knew that we had to help. The Good People Fund offered Lev Leytzan a $1000 matching grant, provided they could gather a similar amount. Today, Neal wrote to say that he had not only matched the $1000 but actually exceeded it by raising an additional $450! It looks as if these compassionate clowns will be spending some winter days in Berlin. We have no doubt that they will leave smiles on the faces of many of the elders and kids they meet there.