Community Outreach

Beyond the Big Top


One of the oldest performing arts, circus functions as a universal language - a performance of the human body, a community activity that unites the hearts and souls of everyone - filling a need present inside each and every human being, that cannot be sustained by the icy glare of a television or computer screen. Circus Flora strongly believes that Circus is an art form that should be available for all to enjoy and experience. As all who attend a Circus Flora performance know, the experience transcends boundaries of age, gender, race and socio-economic status.

Putting this belief into practice, Circus Flora has developed and implemented a range of outreach and educational programs.

Clowns on Call

Stepping out of the center ring, Clowns on Call brings laughter, cheer, and the wonders of the circus to hospitalized children and their families. Following a successful pilot, the program launched in February 2012. Since that time, Circus Flora's specially trained clowns have made weekly visits to Mercy Children's Hospital and SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center. These ‘clowns on call' make ‘clown rounds', entertaining at bedsides as well producing shows in activity areas and playrooms. Inspired by the highly successful program at the Big Apple Circus, Claire Wedemeyer spearheads Clown on Call, serving as the principal Clown Conductor. On select clown rounds, Claire partners with first section violinist Angie Smart of the St. Louis Symphony through a partnership with the SymphonyCares program. Claire and Angie work in tandem, delivering beautiful music through playful skits and improv. Since its launch, Clowns on Call has served 2,000 children.

Clowns work with child life specialists and medical staff to tailor performances and activities to a specific patient's needs. For some children, a hospital room is a barren, even threatening environment. Clowns allow young patients to gain a measure of control over their immediate situation by interacting with performers on their terms. Where a child is in the midst of an uncomfortable procedure, such as a blood draw, juggling or slapstick is used as a diversion. Clowns also support positive health care outcomes by promoting physical therapy through the teaching of circus skills, such as spinning a plate or balancing a feather. For a severely disabled or developmentally delayed child, live music offers magical communication and soothing contact. No matter the condition, if children cannot come to the circus because they are in the hospital, Clowns on Call finds a way to bring the circus to them.

Clowns on Call is made possible by donations from many individuals, corporations and foundations.

Underwriting support to implement the program generously provided by the Centene Charitable Foundation. Click HERE for more information about Clowns on Call.

Share the Circus

Family activities are integral to our society - any opportunities for quality time spent with others helps weave together the threads of our separate lives. The importance of children bonding with mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and great-grandparents is inescapable.

In recognition of this, Circus Flora has established the "Share the Circus" program, in which tickets are given, free of charge, to children and families from underserved communities.  In 2011, Circus Flora partnered with several area organizations in order to create family experiences through the magic of Circus. The American Diabetes Association used the opportunity as a way to educate parents on how to take care of their children with diabetes. The Birthday Foundation held its June Birthday Party at the circus for children that are homeless, disadvantaged or facing medical crisis. Circus Flora plans to continue to build partnerships with area organizations through the Share the Circus ticket donation program.

Through the generosity of many contributors, thousands of children (more than 3,500 in 2008 alone) have experienced the joy and wonder of Circus Flora's performances. By partnering with non-profits in the St. Louis area, Circus Flora is able to offer children an art form which they otherwise would never experience.

Community Circus Camps

Circus Harmony's trainers in the Community Circus Camps utilize performance skills to better the lives of underserved children from the city neighborhoods in which Circus Flora performs. These camps are held during Circus Flora's performance run, taking advantage of the unique opportunity to provide children with a once-in-a-lifetime experience under a real big-top tent, utilizing professional equipment, animals and the skills of the Flying Wallendas, the Zoppé family and other world-class performers.

In 2011, Circus Flora will partner for a third year with Craft Alliance in Grand Center to provide an enhanced all day arts experience for the participants - mornings creating visual arts with professional instructors, and afternoons under the big top.

Ivor David Balding

Photo By Dan Donovan