Welcome to the Social Circus Foundation Blog!

The Social Circus Foundation INC will raise funds to support programs using circus as tools for social change and in medical settings.  Many of the people served have limited resources clearinghouse for scholarships and to educate and study the application of circus to mental and physically disabled.

Board Members:

Board Chair
Dave Schroeder
Executive Director, Kenton County Public Library

Sara Warner
Recreation Therapist
St. Elizabeth Hospital

Renee Harris
Operations Manager, Circus Mojo

Sean Sweeney
Assistant Vice President and Director – Information Technology at
Cincinnati Insurance Company

Louis (“Tres”) Kutcher PhD
Chair, Biology Department at University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College

Carressa (Mroz) Smith
Counselor/Sole Proprietor of Empathic Solutions Counseling

Todd Robinson
Founder at Beacon Shots

Jene Galvin
Retired Educator

The Corporation intends to provide three main programs that will use the circus as a tool for social change and in medical settings:

1-   Approximately one-third (1/3) of the Foundation’s attention will be focused on using circus to improve the lives of the mentally and physically disabled. The Foundation has already partnered with Children’s Hospital of Cincinnati, Ohio to provide programming for hospitalized children, and hopes to expand to other medical non-profits in the future.

2-   Another approximately one-third (1/3) of the Foundation’s attention will be focused on vocational training. The Foundation will provide will provide job training and skill sets focused on the circus industry to the underprivileged in an effort to give them the tools they need to sustain livelihood and be productive members of society.

3-   The remaining one-third (1/3) of the Foundation’s attention will be focused on education. Specifically, the foundation will study the impact of social circus in medical settings and as a tool for social change. The data collected will be used to study impact of circus on an individual’s mental and physical health, and to support social circus work in group homes, detention centers, and medical facilities.

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Economic Impact 226,102 DKK = $38,641 USD : A Visit from the Danes

What’s the economic impact of hosting 19 people from Denmark for 10 days in the USA?

226,102 kr. = $38,641 USD

Danish circus pro,Einar Trie has been a clown for 45 years. He’s owner of Cirkus Charlie and director of Salling Cirkus Kids in rural Denmark.  In 1980 Einar performed in the opening ceremony for the Olympics in Moscow and in 1986 he walked from the top of the Grand Canyon to the bottom and back up on 3 foot (one meter) stilts.  Einar met Paul Miller, founder of Circus Mojo in Berlin at Network of International Circus Educators conference in 2011.

Miller and Trie met up again in Finland at the first ever Effective Circus Conference where Miller offered the closing Keynote in December 2013. While together in Finland they began formalized a partnership that has led to ten days of circus and economic exchange.

The following is a conversation started January 8, 2012  7:37am:

Einar Trie: “Here we live in Denmark – Ouer kids will rearly like to visit USA with a show next year. Is it possible – can you help us with place and public. And where are you liwing in your big country.”Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 12.58.09 PM


Paul Miller: “Yes I would love to help you coordinate this Trip/Adventure. Do you mean in 2012 or 2013?

Jump to October 2014, nearly three years in development, Circus Mojo hosted 19 performers and coaches from Denmark for a 10 day tour in the USA October 10-19, 2014. Einar joined Circus Mojo for the 2nd Annual College Circus Festival in May 2014 to review the site and to make plans face to face with Miller. In the Summer of 2014 Circus Mojo sent three adult staff members to Denmark to participate in the production and to build this relationship.

Denmark Exchange fountain square nanaIMG_9190florence yall

Economic impact: $38,321 or over 224,000 Danish Krone10694356_10152735123958758_648901212373934581_o

  • $23,318 Flight/Transport
  • $4,642 Lodging
  • $4,180 Meals/ Food
  • $707 Van Rental
  • $78 Parking
  • $255 Gas
  • $340 Printing & Promotion
  • $4,250 Souvenirs / Retail / Mall trip
  • $551 Entertainment / Museum

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Media Impact 

RCN Story

Fox 19 (126 recommendations as of 10.20.2014)

WCPO (140 views as of 10.20.2014)

The Bronx Ink NYC (55 recs as of 10.20.2014)

Value of over $7,000 in earned media

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Social Media Impact

Constant Contact  578 unique opens

Facebook + 220% in page likes +127% engagement

Twitter  403 views 6 retweets 10 favorites


IMG_1875Saturday Tourists in Chicago

Sunday Performance Chicago Park Dist Hamlin Pak with CirquesExperience.

Tuesday Children’s Home of Northern KY & Circus Scholastics for Kids in Ludlow KY

Wednesday Children’s Hospital 1 PM (Closed performance for inpatients YMCA Cornerstone Montessori 12:15 -2:45 Ockerman Elementary 4-5PM

Thursday 8AM Performance Leadership NKY at the Carnegie Theatre Covington with Miller’s Keynote

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Friday 8:30 AM Ludlow Schools & 10AM Providence Pavilion Nursing Home Covington WCPO News

Cirque du Soleil at Bank of KY Center

Cirque du Soleil donated 100 tickets to the Social Circus Foundation 501c3 arm of Circus Mojo to support free programming for youth in Ludlow.  Event raised $10,000 for free programming for youth in Ludlow KY. Three kids from Ludlow to Europe: Jesse, Erinn and Tate and Jean-Tae (Antigua) and Meshu (Ethiopia).

Saturday 7:30 pm Cikus Fabbriken & Salling Cirkus of Denmark Performs at the Ludlow Theatre Home Of Circus Mojo with The Last, Best Hope for Humanity (comedy troupe) & Siegelord

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On Saturday October 18th, 250 people came to Ludlow Kentucky to see the Danes and the Circus Mojo performers.  It was a straw house (circus lingo standing room only).

The Danes have supported local business, the international airport and the economy in the Greater Cincinnati Area.  Look for more developments with the Commonwealth of Kentucky approving a major tourism development loan to expand Circus Mojo.

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Join the Circus, See the World: Jean-Tae’s Circus Tour

The Social Circus Connection:


Amy Chen ~ Cirque Devou 2010

Circus is truly a universal language.  The passion for the art and the ability it has to bridge age, language, ability and location is what brings people to the circus and brings passionate instructors and artists together for a greater good. The social circus concept is a tool used around the world helping marginalized people unlock their talent, confidence, drive and spirit using circus arts as the key.  Paul Miller and Amy Chen have been involved with social circus efforts together and separately for over a decade.

Amy Chen, trapeze artist, juggler, acrobat, and fire breather is currently Circus Coach and Coordinator with THE POINT Community Development Corporation which is dedicated to youth development and the cultural and economic revitalization of the Hunts Point section of the South Bronx.  THE POINT brings the circus to the South Bronx through one-of-a-kind Cirque du Monde  social circus workshops and live circus performances. Cirque du Monde is the outreach arm of Cirque du Soleil.

Social Circus at Work: Jean-Tae’s Story

In August, thirteen members of Circus Mojo had a three-week international exchange in Southwest Germany with Circus Pimparello, a German youth circus that has been a partner for nearly ten years. Our troupe learned, taught and performed alongside Circus Pimparello in a variety of venues from outside the Stuttgart Opera House to inside the CircArtive House at their headquarters. Jean-Tae Francis, a nineteen-year-old who studies circus arts in the Bronx, was part of our troupe. Here is his story:

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Cirque Devou 2014 ~ Jean-Tae with Amy Chen and Omar Rodriguez from The Point in The Bronx

I am originally from Antigua, a tiny country in the Caribbean. In 2009, I moved to Newark, NJ, and I now live in Brooklyn. I have been in the circus for four years at THE POINT in The Bronx under the coaching of Amy Chen. The first specific skill I focused on was juggling, and I recently took up the diabolo. Amy is not only an amazing coach but also an amazing person. We have become very close over the past year and I consider her to be one of my best friends.  She pushes me to work hard and challenge myself. I admire her as a mentor, value her as a friend and feel blessed to have her in my life.

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Jean-Tae and Circus Mojo founder Paul Miller

Amy was the reason I was able to connect with Circus Mojo and Paul Miller. Circus Mojo is definitely a cool place and I love working with the kids there. Paul is a highly energetic and crazy-funny guy, but, hey, he’s a clown!

Performing in Cirque Devou with Circus Mojo and the Northern KY Symphony Orchestra was a summer highlight. Until then, I hadn’t performed in front of more than 20 people; during that weekend, I went from a crowd of 20 to an audience of around 3,000.

Jean-Tae 1

Jean-Tae and his German instructors.

After Cirque Devou, Circus Mojo invited me to tour Germany and Denmark. Being in Europe for the first time and training with Circus Pimparello’s talented coaches, Stefan and Tobias, elevated my skills and opened my eyes to a new world. The language barrier in Germany made things hard at first, but sleeping in a tent on cold nights was harder. I didn’t pack for the weather, but I survived.

During my final week in Germany, I was made a Teamer, a leader and instructor for the younger campers, and given many responsibilities. I grew a lot from this challenging experience and had a chance to perform in Stuttgart, a city way cleaner than the Bronx or Brooklyn. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that there are hardly any trashcans in Germany and no trash at all on the ground.

Jean-Tae 2

Jean-Tae practices diabolo in the shade of the Pimparello tents.

Sandwiched between my stay in Germany was my week-long adventure in Denmark at Circus Fabrikken, founded by Einar Trie. Einar was a pleasure to work with, and the Circus Fabrikken kids were spectacular at the silks, trapeze and contortion. Magne, my diabolo partner, manages to be the only boy in a circus of 14 girls. Kudos. We created an act in about 30 minutes and I was impressed with how good it was. I plan to hang out with Circus Fabrikken again when they visit Chicago and Circus Mojo in mid-October. Looking forward to our performance!

I loved it in Europe, but there’s no place like NYC. Everyone at The Point treats each other like family and I felt like family right away. I appreciate what they do for the community and hope to be with them for many more years. I want to watch them grow and be part of the change.


Paul Miller has been using the concepts of social circus in Ludlow, Kentucky and the surrounding areas since Circus Mojo’s inception in 2009.The Social Circus Foundation (SCF), the non-profit arm of Circus Mojo, has been chosen by Cirque du Soleil as a beneficiary of their social outreach program. Cirque du Soleil is dedicated to using social circus around the globe and Miller has had a relationship with Cirque du Soleil since 2003 . The SCF has been given 100 tickets to Cirque du Soleil’s upcoming Varekai at The Bank of Kentucky Center on October 17, 2014.   Funds raised from ticket sales will directly support after-school programming in Ludlow and the Greater Cincin.  Tickets are available at circusmojo.com.

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Join the Circus… See the World… Or, Tate’s First Trip on a Plane

In August, thirteen members of Circus Mojo had a three-week international exchange in Southwest Germany with Circus Pimparello, a German youth circus that has been a partner for nearly ten years. Our troupe learned, taught and performed alongside Circus Pimparello in a variety of venues from outside the Stuttgart Opera House to inside the CircArtive House at their headquarters. Tate, a fourteen-year-old girl who attends Ludlow High School, was part of our troupe. Here is her story:

When I joined Circus Mojo in my Ludlow neighborhood three years ago,  after-school on Saturdays and over summer camp, I had no idea that the circus would give me such amazing experiences or take me to such amazing places like Germany.

Tate wire

Before this summer, I had never flown in a plane, let alone flown in a plane out of the country. My first flight was thrilling!

Tate on Plane

It was nothing like I had imagined. I felt both nervous and excited as we took off. The turbulence was better than expected but sometimes scary, especially when the plane would turn on an angle. From my window seat, I saw the sun set and rise and reflect off the Atlantic. I saw hills, fields and cities: Cincinnati, New York and Stuttgart (even Ludlow).

My favorite part of the flight was passing through clouds and seeing snowflakes form on the window.  I took some great pictures though with a fancy camera my sister let me borrow for the trip.I even videotaped the takeoff and landing!


Once I arrived in Germany, the real fun started. I learned to lie down on the tightwire and get back up without placing my hands on the wire or using them to balance. I also learned to ride a unicycle backwards and had the chance to work on the diabolo, trapeze, rolla bolla and German wheel.

On our last day at Circus Pimparello, I performed on the silks, unicycle and Tightwire. I even used a GoPro while performing on the silks, but as I did my drop, the GoPro flew off my head and landed on the mat below. Despite this mishap, this was my best performance.

Tate Stuttgart opera

One of my best days at Circus Pimparello was “American Day.” We had a big brunch, relaxed, played games and, top on the list, ate hamburgers made by Pauly and Jesse, a former Circus Mojo staff member who now lives in Germany. All the Germans made us Americans feel special. I am so happy for the friends and memories I made on this trip.

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 4.27.26 PMTate is a participant in the Circus Scholastics Program,  a free after school program offering circus training and homework help to youth in Ludlow, KY.  We have created the Social Circus Foundation INC a registered  non-profit 501c3 arm to raise funds to support kids like Tate.

Linking circus training and goals for higher education: Read about Tate’s trip sponsored by the Social Circus Fund to visit Illinois State University.  Thanks to Nena Woo, a first generation college grad, who apprenticed with the circus in Ludlow.

Cirque du Soleil has donated 100 tickets to Varekai at the Bank of Kentucky Center on 10.17.2014 at 7:30pm. 100% of the proceeds will support the  Circus Scholastics Program.  Click to purchase tickets or to make a donation.

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Circus at Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired ~ Cincinnati, Ohio

My name is Sharon and I am from Mexico City. Over the past 4 years that I have worked with Circus Mojo, I have taught thousands of people circus skills like silks, juggling, globe walking and more. Working with visually impaired kids in circus skills is one of my favorite things about my job as a circus trainer. 

This is the fifth time we have brought a circus workshop to Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired. We began the workshop with a few games, played Name and Sound, a game we adapted from our regular training where kids say their name and do something and then everybody else repeats it. In this case we had people say their name and make a sound that everyone would repeat and it was lots of fun!

Every time before introducing a new skill in the class we did a little exercise where everybody got to feel whatever prop we were about to use and we explained how it worked or why it was shaped that way. An example of that activity was when we introduced the rolling globe, everybody had the chance to feel it and then rolled it to somebody else.blind globe

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I think my favorite skill to teach to visually impaired people is the spinning plates because they get really curious about what makes the plate spin or why it is shaped the way it is. They can also focus more on the feeling and not on watching it like every other person does, which makes it easier for them to learn.

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They are the best at listening and the most courageous people we work with because they do things that even people that can see are many times afraid to do.

Another really interesting skill to teach to them is the Diabolo or Chinese yo-yo because most of the times people have a hard time getting it going and the momentum needed seems to be always the problem. But again, for the visually impaired kids their listening skills and getting the feeling helps them big time. They know exactly when they are doing it right and the yo-yo is spinning or when it’s stopped and they need to start it again.

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I have had the chance to work in some occasions with visually impaired kids at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and it has been a great experience. It is also very special when I get to see the same patient more than once and we create a good relationship with them trying different tricks every time. For example there is a boy I have seen in many occasions and we started by just spinning a plate on his finger but now every time I see him we try something different and he even requests us to visit him in his room when he has an appointment. We have done all sorts of tricks with him including plate spinning, juggling and even feather balancing. Which sounds almost impossible since you have to look at the top to balance but he focuses so hard on feeling the feather move that he gets it to balance.

plate foot

Most would think circus with the blind and visually impaired is impossible… Well that is the business of the circus, bringing the impossible to be! 

We are working to prove the impossible and have been utilizing surveys from A Guide to the Study of the Wellbeing Effects of Circus: A Publication of the Centre for Practise as Research in Theatre by the University of Tampere Finland. Have a look at the report for the young people as well as the teachers from our visit to Clovernook in July 2014.  



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A Lost Boy from Sudan, a Gang and a Circus

Circus Mojo:

Seven years ago today Khalid was lost to gang violence.

Originally posted on Social Circus Foundation INC:

Listen to the story here on Chicago Public Radio Archive

If you’d like to read more about Khalid, click here to purchase an essay written by best-selling author Alex Kotlowitz.

Or read more about Khalid’s Mother Afaf’s experience on PBS/Frontline Website.

Today, July 7, 2012, marks the six-year anniversary of Khalid Mohammed’s death. On July 6, 2009, Jorge Pena, a member of a gang called the Maniac Latin Disciples, was found guilty of the murder of Khalid. I spent July 1 and 2, 2009 with Afaf Ahmed, Khalid’s mother, at the courthouse in Chicago to lend support in her time of need. Her strength serves as an inspiration during these difficult times and reminds me of what truly matters in life.

Khalid’s story reminds all of us what is at stake for many of the kids I served in Chicago and try to here in Cincinnati. He joined the circus in…

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How Do You Join a Circus?

Circus Mojo:

Cherie Dawn has been an enormous guide in the development of Circus Mojo & the Social Circus Fund. She is a fantastic dancer, performer, editor, connector & FRIEND! Bravo… My favorite class with her was with a group of juvenile felons in Ludlow KY and wow did we have fun!

Originally posted on Cherie Dawn Loves Fire:

So you want to join a circus. This question recently came up when I was giving a presentation on being a fire eater/performer/writer/reader to a teen group at the Franklin County Library in Brooksville, Indiana.

After talking about my experiences and answering questions from a small but engaged audience of tweens, a parent approached me. She looked to be about my age, and asked if it’s really possible to join a circus. “Can it be a real job?” She asked me. My answer, at first, was that it depends. When she clarified that she was asking for her ambitious 12-year-old daughter who excelled at gymnastics and dreamed of doing cirque for a living, I knew that I had driven 90 minutes to this library, on this day, for a reason.

Cherie Dawn discussing circus arts with youth “Don’t try this at home, kids.” :)

A good friend of mine is living proof that you can join the…

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College Circus Brings Hope to Kids’ Futures! By Nena Woo

10154923_10152322534448758_5131531566578322557_nThe trip to Illinois State University and the Gamma Phi Circus on April 11th sparked a fire of inspiration in the six Circus Mojo kids that Dr. Louis Kutcher and I chaperoned. Many of them come from low-income families and have never seen a college campus. Some of them experience the struggles of a small community and bullying for being different. The trip to ISU opened their eyes to a new world of possibility. As a previous admissions counselor and mentor for many youth, I must admit, I have never been so impressed with the enthusiasm and engagement of young students on a college campus. The day began with a five hour drive and ended with a desire for going to college and joining a collegiate circus.

Since we arrived on campus early and weather was beautiful, the kids started their day practicing circus on the quad. They juggled, hula hooped, and unicycled together around ISU’s collection of trees and campus features.

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Lunch was provided at Watterson Dining Center by Arlene Hosea, Assistant to the Vice President for Student Affairs & Director of Campus Dining Services. The students enjoyed the newly renovated dining center set up buffet style offering a variety of selections including pizza and hamburgers, salads and homestyle foods, to special ethnic selections. Since I am an ISU graduate and former Gamma Phi Circus participant, they got a head start on their questions about being a college student and being a part of the Gamma Phi Circus.

After lunch, the students received an official admissions presentation by Rachel Caracci, Assistant Director of Admissions at ISU. They learned about requirements for getting into ISU and what the university has to offer. Each student brought a list of questions they had created before the trip which they wasted no time sharing with Mrs. Caracci. I’ve never seen junior high school students so engaged for a college admissions presentation. We took them on a campus and residence hall tour where they asked many more relevant questions.

Following the tour we stopped at ISU’s Special Collections at Milner Library. Circus Now’s Online Director, Rainie Themer works in Special Collections and shared historic circus artifacts including Tom Thumb’s “Tiny Tim” wife’s shoes and gloves and photos of the Gamma Phi Circus in its beginnings. They also learned about early American circus and viewed books and photos of traditional circus performers.

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Around 5 p.m. we picked up our dinner donated by Avanti’s Italian Restaurant, an ISU community favorite, and brought it to Redbird Arena for a backstage tour of the Gamma Phi Circus. The Circus Mojo kids expressed anticipation and excitement for meeting the Gamma Phi performers since the initial planning of the trip. The tour led by Director Marcus Alouan and contributing performers was the highlight of the day for the kids.


One of the junior high students stood with a notebook in her hand going down a list of questions she had been preparing for weeks to ask the Gamma Phi Circus performers. Another, 6th grader, smiled and whispered to me “This is weird, I feel like we’re VIP.” This made me smile and realize how important this exposure was in the formation of these kids’ futures. It may be their first inspiration of seeing a college education along with their passion for circus as a reachable opportunity.


The Gamma Phi Circus provided us with excellent seats for their evening performance. I watched the glitter in the Circus Mojo kids’ eyes as they watched the college performers in awe of their flips, balancing acts, strength, collaboration, and professionalism. One student expressed her opinion that she enjoyed watching the college students over Ringling and was excited to know that it was an opportunity she could take advantage of after high school.

After the show, the kids met more performers and had their programs signed. They talked about their favorite acts and learned that the Gamma Phi performers were average college students pursuing degrees in many different fields including accounting, education, theatre, and biology. As we walked back to our vehicles, I could see the admiration for the performers and inspiration they felt as they shared their favorite events of the day and interesting facts they learned. 10153919_10152322535813758_2569549224375806294_n

I cannot say “thank you” enough to our sponsors and the people that helped make this trip happen (Arlene Hosea, Pam Woo, Avanti’s Italian Restaurant, the Gamma Phi Circus, ISU Admissions, ISU Special Collections, Dr. Louis Kutcher, Trader Joe’s, Krogar, and Riverside Marketplace) including parents and supporters. We are so grateful at Circus Mojo and the Social Circus Foundation to have offered this opportunity to the young Circus Mojo students. It has proven to have an impact on their lives and their perception of the opportunities available to them. As a professional and an advocate of social circus, this trip was one of the most inspiring events of my career.


Nena Woo

More photos of the trip can be seen on Circus Mojo’s Facebook page.

Join us for the 2nd Annual International College Circus Festival (May 16-18, 2014) hosted by The Social Circus Foundation and Circus Mojo offers students the chance to show off their skills and connect with a community of students and professionals who share a passion for circus arts. The weekend program includes performances to entertain families, networking, workshops, professional guidance and career opportunities. The festival provides vocational training and education focused on the circus industry for students, including those underprivileged, giving them the tools they need to sustain livelihood and be productive members of society.


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