Optometrist clowns around for charity

Optometrist Lucy Sheffield, OD, wears plastic earrings shaped as rubber chickens.

Optometrist Lucy Sheffield, OD, wears plastic earrings shaped as rubber chickens. One of her office drawers is stuffed with giant eyeglasses. She encourages patients to wear them, then snaps a photo, and hangs the pictures on her office wall.

Dr. Sheffield is a professionally trained clown and a certified laughter leader. Since 1996, she has traveled internationally to Russia, China, Mexico, Italy, Venezuela, and Jamaica to help spread laughter and joy around the world.

Dr. Sheffield's clown name is Feather, which she chose when she attended a weekend course called "Friendly Clowning-Walking the Path of Joy," offered at Pendle Hill, a Quaker center for study and contemplation in Wallingford, PA.

She learned how to apply clown makeup and dress in clown costumes. Along with the other clowns, she formed a parade and later enjoyed a clown dinner in silence so they could practice their pantomime skills.

During the course, one clown handed out a book written by Hunter "Patch" Adams, MD, a physician and professional clown who wasn't well known at the time. Dr. Adams, who established The Gesundheit! Institute, has devoted his life to laughter and wellness.

Dr. Sheffield later learned that Dr. Adams was inviting clowns to join him on a 2-week humanitarian trip to Russia at their own expense. There was one catch-all clowns had to wear their clown makeup and costume on the plane and for the duration of the trip.

That didn't bother Dr. Sheffield, who drove to the airport in full costume.

"We had a fantastic experience," she said, adding that they visited hospitals, nursing homes, orphanages and schools. Since then, she has returned to Russia four times.