Cheryl Lekousi has dedicated her career to helping children through medical clowning, a path that in her own words is “uncommon.” Cheryl is the Executive Director of Hearts & Noses Hospital Clown Troupe, a non-profit organization that visits the pediatric wings of five hospitals throughout the greater Boston area. Cheryl also owns and operates Tiny Hearts Playgroup, a family childcare program which she opened in 1984.
Cheryl’s interest in helping and teaching children that struggle began in high school. At NHS, Cheryl was part of the Alternative Program where students were able to create and personalize their own course of study. Cheryl developed a class named ‘teacher cadet’ where she worked with physically and intellectually disabled students in the Newman Jr. High resource room. There, Cheryl worked with teacher and mentor George Willwerth, who taught her how to reach people who learn differently.
One of Cheryl’s most important life experiences at Needham High “was the time I spent in the resource room cultivating the relationships I made with special needs students, and honing my observational skills that I currently use every day and are critical to being able to aid in a child’s success.”
After graduating from NHS, Cheryl attended Mass Bay Community College and Wheelock College, and has taken numerous workshops in physical humor, music, and improvisation. “Learning to become an authentic character clown is the tool I use to allow the connection to happen.”
Cheryl started training with Hearts & Noses in 1999 and became Executive Director in 2005. Under Cheryl’s leadership, Hearts & Noses has grown to be a dynamic organization with over 20 trained medical clowns serving such hospitals as Boston Medical Center, Floating Hospital for Children, Spaulding Rehab Hospital, Mass General Hospital and Franciscan Hospital for Children.
Professional organizations that Cheryl is a member of include Healthcare Clowning Worldwide, and Clown Doctors & Hospital Entertainers Worldwide. Her charitable activities have focused on offering her medical clowning, skills to organizations that serve children with illnesses, disability and/or homelessness.
Cheryl’s message for students is “find your interests but explore and cultivate multiple pathways to your goals. Today’s class drudgery might give you something that you find valuable later. I didn’t start hospital clowning until age 41, even though my father had been a stage magician and did hospital clowning before I was born and years after. There was all that talent right in my home and I didn’t know how I could have used his knowledge!”
Cheryl lives in Needham with her husband Steven, and has grown children Sarah Innes (36), and Charlie Bain (32) and is grandmother to Declan Innes.