Skip to main content
Find a DoctorGet Care Now
Skip to main content








At a July 26 ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of the clown program at YNHCH, Leo Desilets (AKA Dr. Chester Drawers), and Joel Jeske (AKA Dr. Ya Don’t Say!) shared a special song they had composed for the occasion. 

YNHCH clown program celebrates 25 years of big smiles (and big shoes)

Amanda Garbatini remembers having to stay very still during radiation treatment for cancer when she was 11 years old. 

She got some unconventional help from an unexpected source: Dr. Chester Drawers, one of the clowns who works at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital. He placed a red-foam clown nose on Garbatini and told her to keep still so it wouldn’t fall off. It worked.

On July 26, Dr. Drawers (AKA Leo Desilets) and Garbatini, now a YNHCH oncology clinical social worker, were among those celebrating the clown program’s 25th year at the Children’s Hospital. During a special ceremony, hospital leaders and staff joined Scott and Heidi Smith, whose Garrett B. Smith Foundation funds the Healthy Humor Red Nose Docs clown program at YNHCH. The Smith family started the foundation in memory of their 4-year-old son, who passed away in 1995 after a brief struggle with cancer.  

Cynthia Sparer, executive vice president, Yale New Haven Health, and executive director, YNHCH, presented the Smiths with a plaque in honor of the program’s anniversary.

“This program is a wonderful testament to your son, and everything you’ve done in his name,” she said.  

Heidi Smith thanked the donors who have helped the foundation raise nearly $5 million for pediatric cancer research and for the clown program, which also helps patients’ loved ones, hospital staff and others.


In honor of the clown program’s 25th anniversary, Cynthia Sparer, YNHHS executive vice president and YNHCH executive director (left), presented a plaque to Heidi and Scott Smith. The Garrett B. Smith Foundation, established in memory of the Smiths’ son, funds the Healthy Humor Red Nose Docs clown program at the Children’s Hospital.

“This is not just for patients,” she said. “It’s for everybody who walks through these doors.” 

The Red Nose Docs clowns work with pediatric patients throughout the hospital, including in inpatient units, the Emergency Department, PACU and other areas, said Joel Jeske, (AKA Dr. Ya Don’t Say!). Being a hospital clown is serious business. Professional artists, the Red Nose Docs clowns are specially trained to work in hospitals. They strictly follow safety, infection-prevention and other protocols. They also familiarize themselves with different treatments and facilities in the hospital.

“A lot of our job involves distracting children from procedures,” Jeske said. “Going in, we have to understand what’s going on medically, and what we can do that’s appropriate.”

The clowns did a great job of helping Axel Lopez Sanchez get through his treatments at YNHCH, his mother, Leticia Lopez Sanchez, said during the 25th anniversary celebration.

 “They put a lot of smiles on his face,” she said.

“The clowns were always a bright light in the clinic. They provided a much-needed distraction from frightening procedures and treatments,” Garbatini said. “I can’t believe how lucky I am that I get to work beside one of the clowns who used to visit me 24 years ago.”

Desilets, who has been at YNHCH since the clown program’s beginning, told the group, “It’s been the most rewarding experience of my life.”