On Tuesday 11th April we celebrated our 4th Birthday. Our huggable mascot Buddy Bear popped in to see us and even brought us a delicious cake.
Four years ago today our co-founders Josephine Segal and Vanessa Crocker took a team of entertainers into Great Ormond Street Hospital for our very first visit. We visited four wards; haematology and oncology, the cardiac unit and a ward which treats children with renal- related conditions. The entertainers on that first visit included Spread a Smile regulars Fairy Felicity and Adam Ant.
Fairy Felicity said: “It’s been amazing watching the charity grow and develop from such humble beginnings, initially visiting only four GOSH wards once a month in the early days, and now entertaining in four hospitals several times a month with such a great team of talented performers.
“It’s been an absolute privilege visiting the kids over the last four years. Every visit gives me pause for thought, as we meet some very brave children in distressing circumstances. However, knowing that we have gone some way to alleviate their distress that day gives me a real sense of fulfilment. To make a child laugh, to help them forget for a moment that they are in a hospital or in pain, is a real joy.”
During the last four years, Vanessa and Josephine have led the growth of the charity, ensuring that we have always been able to serve our current partner hospitals to the best of our abilities before expanding into new ones. In this way, the hospitals know we are always there to help and the children have learnt to look forward to our visits as a highlight to their week. Over the years, we have formed some close bonds with the children and their families, supporting them through their difficult journeys.
Natasha Luck, Play Specialist at The Royal London Hospital, said: “I have absolutely loved every minute of working with Spread a Smile and all of their entertainers. The difference they make for both the patients and their families is incredible. The generosity they have shown The Royal London Hospital is overwhelming: I know I never have to hesitate to ask them if I need any help or support.”
Since April 2013, we have expanded our visits in GOSH, now visiting nine wards twice a month, as well as visits to University College Hospital, The Royal London Hospital, and since the start of this year, St Mary’s, Paddington. Vanessa and Josephine’s tireless commitment to the children and teenagers we visit has gained recognition from Number 10. In December 2016, Prime Minister Theresa May honoured them with a Points of Light Award, which recognises outstanding individual volunteers, people who are making a change in their community and inspiring others.
On the charity’s fourth anniversary, Vanessa said: “It’s incredible to see how Spread a Smile has grown. We are so lucky that with the help of our generous donors and supporters we are now able to visit over 3,000 children and teenagers a year. With continued support, we are looking to expand to make more monthly visits and add new hospitals to our list, so we can reach even more children and teenagers. Thank you to our wonderful supporters who make it all possible and have helped us reach our fourth birthday!”