Disney’s The Lion King and Aladdin

Last week was an exciting one for Team Spread a Smile as we took 32 families to not one, but two wonderful West End shows!

It was a real privilege to take some of the brave children we visit in Hospital on a VIP day out. Kids and teenagers from 2-17 years old and their families went to see Disney’s The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre on 27th September and Disney’s Aladdin at the Prince Edward Theatre on 28th September.

We invited the families to a party before the shows, during which our special Spread a Smile entertainers kept everyone smiling and laughing with magic, balloons, face painting and fairy dust.

Jane Goddard, mother to 8-year-old Oliver who we visit at GOSH, said of their trip to Aladdin: “I want to say a huge thank you to everyone involved in our theatre trip yesterday. You didn’t just spread a smile, you created memories for us all, allowed us to spend quality family time together and let us forget about hospitals and the medical ‘journey’ we are going on. Oliver has had a tough life medically and we’ve all had a tough time since his transplant in April. So to be able to enjoy a treat yesterday and enjoy each other’s company was amazing. Oliver said he had the best day of his life and meeting some of the cast afterwards really was the icing on the cake.”

Anna Austin, who went with 2-year-old daughter Isla and her siblings Finn and Lottie to see The Lion King, said of the day: “My three children were completely mesmerised by the show, stunned into silence, and meeting the cast was the most fantastic end to the day. Isla has been treated for Neuroblastoma for a year now at GOSH; she has obviously been incredibly ill and the impact it’s had on Finn and Lottie cannot be underestimated. For all three children to be included made it so special and such a wonderful treat.”

We visit 4-year-old Milla on Lion, an oncology ward, at GOSH; she went with her family to see The Lion King. Her mum, Tara Hutton, said, “Thank you all so much for inviting us today; we had a wonderful time. You must have worked so hard to plan such a brilliant event: it was such a lovely atmosphere from the moment we arrived. Milla said it was ‘brilliant’ (which is high praise indeed) and Lorcan cried on the way home because he didn’t want to go to ‘boring home’. I could have cried seeing both of them, and all the other children, so happy.  Thank you.”

Lauren Dyer, mum to 6-year-old Elsa who we visit at GOSH, said of The Lion King: “It had me in tears – happy ones! I have not seen my daughter Elsa that happy for a long time! On the way home both Elsa and Ollie said ‘that was the best day’… Thank you so much for a day my children will remember forever.” 

Siobhan Cunningham, who went to see The Lion King with her family, said, “After a most draining and difficult few months for Finan, it felt wonderful to go out as a family again. You and all your colleagues looked after us all so well and the entire day was magical for the children. Finan was mesmerised by the show, the kaleidoscope of colour, animals and movement. His face lit up as he saw all his favourite animals making their way to the stage.

Afterwards, his sister Aibhilin said that the best thing about the day was that the siblings were treated the same and felt just as special as the sick children. I’m afraid that no matter how hard you try as a parent, the siblings of oncology children often feel neglected. She was tickled pink by Timon and Pumba’s Riverdance sketch as before Finan’s illness she had been an Irish dancer and that is also how my husband and I met so many years ago when we were both much younger, fitter and much much slimmer! All three children have gone to bed clutching their gift bags and programmes, and the event was the subject of their ‘show and tell’ the following day.

The entire event was so uplifting after such a thoroughly depressing couple of months that I cannot thank you, Spread a Smile, all of your colleagues and the cast and crew of ‘The Lion King’ enough. I was quite overcome several times on the day and still feel quite emotional about it now. Thank you for including Finan’s siblings and for all the great work you do. Thank you so very much.”

After both shows, the casts came out in costume to meet our guests, and the reaction of the children and their families was overwhelming. Everyone loved chatting and taking smiling selfies with the actors. The afternoon was topped off with goody bags for the kids to enjoy on their way home.

A big thank you to Disney, especially to Simon Vickers and his team including Lisa and Gemma; thanks to the amazing ATG staff at the Lyceum Theatre and Delfont Mackintosh staff at the Prince Edward Theatre who looked after us so well and also to the theatres for their kind gift of show programmes and interval ice creams; thanks to Lola’s Cupcakes for the yummy treats; and we are grateful to our wonderful Spread a Smile entertainers and volunteers who kept our guests smiling throughout the afternoon.