In February of 1999, Don “Scooter” Hill was invited to travel and clown in Vietnam with a humanitarian group to visit several orphanages. To his knowledge, this was the first time the concept of clowning in Vietnam would be introduced.
It was at a Hanoi orphanage where he held a 6 year-old deaf, mute, sight-impaired, physically disabled child in his arms. “The house mothers were crying and I was concerned that I had done something wrong. Quite the contrary they explained. It was the first and only time they had seen the young child laugh.”
That is what inspired Scooter, a retired U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer, submariner, to find more clowns to travel with him back to Vietnam. That trip was the inspiration for the founding of Caring Clowns International.
It’s a long way from his humble beginnings as a pizza delivery driver in 1994 who dressed up as a clown at the suggestion of his store manager.
After returning from his fifth trip to Vietnam Scooter, Jed “Duffy” Selter, Lois “CoCo” Kerr, and Michael “Safari” Keesling along with Marcia Smith-Hill (who later joined her husband in clowning as “Missy Kissy”) held a brainstorming session to see how to continue their work and Caring Clowns International was formed in April 2002.
It was on this trip Scooter met an anesthesiologist on the plane who worked with surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Weinzweig. Dr. Weinzweig subsequently contacted “Duffy” and shared his vision to combine surgery with entertainment to help ease the burden of the children and their families.
The contact with Dr Weinzweig began the relationship between Caring Clowns International and Komedyplast. In 2017, Caring Clowns International will celebrate its 15th anniversary and its 12th year supporting the Komedyplast missions to Peru for them to perform full facial reconstructive surgery free for poor children. To read more about the medical mission go to: Peru Mission 2016
Scooter has many special memories as a caring clown including clowning the night before his grandchild had surgery for cancer, seven trips to Vietnam, trips to Peru as part of the Komedyplast team and travel with “Children of the Nations International” to the Dominican Republic.
In 2000 his clown face was redesigned by Jim Howe, a well-known retired clown, and his compassion has touched many. Laying on the ground, eye-to-eye with children on bamboo matts, he has a unique ability to get children to laugh and giggle. As a co-founder and active member of Caring Clowns International, he takes the role very seriously always remembering a 12 year-old boy who donated his birthday money to the organization. “I always remember his donation; so I am always inspired that Caring Clowns International carefully uses its donations to help children around the world.”
Scooter has many “caring clown” moments in his 23 years as a clown. On his first trip to Lima, Peru, Scooter was allowed into the operating room and post-op room to video for the surgical team’s reference files. One young child in the recovery area who had just been through a complicated surgery where portions of her skull were removed to make room to replace her eyes was covered in bandages. Scooter recalled “I had a keyboard and she put her hands on the keyboard and started to plunk the keys as if playing. It was a very magical moment.”
Scooter lost his brother in January 2015 to stomach and liver cancer right before a planned trip to Peru in February 2015 – two days before his brother’s memorial. His brother insisted Scooter to go to Lima saying that the people Scooter would touch were more important than he. “I really reached deep on that trip, thinking of my brother as I looked into the eyes of those in need,” Scooter said.
“Music, laughter, tears and food are commonalities around the world, “ he said. “There are too many tears, so bringing laughter is what makes me humble to be a clown and bring my gift to people in need.”
There’s been so much in the news about individuals posing as clowns. We need a greater focus on all the great work being done by real clowns. As the clown community knows, “Real clowns care, not scare.” We hope clowns will continue to be appreciated for connecting with others in the spirit of fun, compassion, caring and emotional healing.
Please enjoy this video, Real Clowns Care…Not Scare
On September 24, 2016, six of us clowns played for our 4th year supporting the Buddy Walk, held at the old airfield in Snohomish County.
Joining us this year was a very special celebrity guest to the event- Dennis Bounds, recently retired King TV news anchor. Dennis jumped right in learning to sculpt balloon dogs and interacting with the kids. He stayed with us for the entire event helping out.
Also, a great help at the event were members of Boy Scout Troop 36 from Lake Stevens. The event netted over $15,000 to help kids with down syndrome.
Attending the festivities were CoCo, Duffy, Flossy, Flora, LaLa and Scooter.
We are continuing our discussions with the Association to put on a clown class for the kids, with donations going to benefit the Association. (This would be follow-on to classes we have previously held for kids with down syndrome in Tacoma and Detroit.)
Last, but certainly not least, as we typically do when we take the ferry, we played with kids on the ride home.
For all us clowns,
On Saturday, September 10, Flora, LaLa, Scooter and Duffy clowned at the street fair for the Gavin Buchanan Memorial Foundation fund raiser in Bremerton.
The foundation was started by Gavin’s grandmother after Gavin (at 8 years old) and his mom and dad were killed in 2015. From a very early age, Gavin had an interest in K-9 dogs, and would take his earned money to donate to help purchase protective equipment for K-9 officers and their dogs.
A vest for a K-9 officer costs about $500, but the fitted vests for their dogs, which are bullet and knife proof, cost $3,000 each. A dog will wear its vest for the average 10 year span of its K-9 service, at which time each retires and lives for the rest of its life as a pet with its handler.
The event was wonderful!! In addition to us, there were about 15 other organizations and businesses which donated their efforts, time and funds to make this event a success. It was hosted by the Horse & Cow Bar and Grill on 4thStreet. The street was cordoned off for the event.
For all us clowns,
Caring Clowns International receives Silver rating from GuideStar
(Poulsbo, Washington) – Caring Clowns International, a 501c (3) charitable organization, today received a Silver rating from GuideStar, an online organization which gathers and disseminates information about every IRS-registered nonprofit organization. The GuideStar rating provides information about Caring Clowns International’s mission, legitimacy, impact, reputation, finances, programs, transparency, governance, and so much more. GuideStar is the world’s largest source of information on nonprofit organizations.
“We are delighted to have achieved a Silver rating,” said Jed “Duffy” Selter, President of the Board and Acting Executive Director of Caring Clowns International. “As an all-volunteer nonprofit, we keep our overhead costs to about 10% whereas most U.S. nonprofits average 30-35% overhead cost,” he said.
In addition to providing a rating to Caring Clowns International, the other benefit of the Silver rating is that it allows individuals who visit the GuideStar website to automatically make a donation to Caring Clowns International whose mission is to help fund humanitarian projects through other well-established nonprofit organizations and clown to help awaken the human spirit.
The next highest level of rating on GuideStar is a Gold Rating. The Board of Directors of Caring Clowns International is working to provide additional documentation to receive a Gold rating level.
Caring Clowns International (www.caringclownsinternational.org) is an all-volunteer, IRS tax-exempt 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit organization comprised of clowns across the U.S. and several other countries. These clowns donate their time at over 80 events internationally and across the U.S. including orphanages, children’s and other hospitals, events for homeless children and adults, residences for abused women and children, schools for the disabled, retirement centers, VA hospitals, events for kids with down syndrome and disabilities, and children whose parents are in prisons and correctional facilities, community events and private parties.
Caring Clowns International members have clowned and supported nonprofits operating in Afghanistan, Angola, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic, England, Ethiopia, France, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, Nepal, Peru, Russia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, South Korea, Thailand, Uganda, the Ukraine, Vietnam, and throughout the United States. Thousands of children and adults have received red clown noses, balloon sculptures, toys and stuffed animals.
The organization’s goal is to raise and responsibly donate $5,000,000 to help needy children in the world. To date, Caring Clowns International has donated over $302,000 in funds and equipment supporting many nonprofits in the U.S. and developing countries.
Caring Clowns International is a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code