We’re absolutely delighted to have welcomed Laura Walter to the Spread a Smile team in our newly created role of Head of Operations. Laura joins us from University College Hospital (UCLH) where she was a play specialist in the radiotherapy department – and Laura had met many of our Spread a Smile families already. Laura has also recently completed a masters degree in Child Life and Paediatric Psychosocial Care and has a postgraduate diploma in Childhood Bereavement.

Laura’s role at UCLH involved helping children, young people and their families to feel safe and comfortable in the radiotherapy environment and help them understand and cope with their daily treatment. Laura says, “I was very fortunate to be able to build long-term relationships with patients and their families and to bring fun and recreation into the hospital environment as much as possible.”

Laura first met the Spread a Smile team in 2013, soon after the charity was founded. Laura says, “I instantly saw the incredible benefits for the patients and families I was  working with in radiotherapy. They helped me out so much by bringing entertainers and therapy dogs to visit children and young people during our busy clinic days, where patients can be waiting for very long periods of time and my colleague and I would be very busy working with new patients. Many of my patients and their families also got to benefit from the amazing VIP days out. It was such a treat to be able to offer these experiences to patients as it gave them a real lift, and, as the whole family was included, it allowed them to spend quality time together, which was essential during such a difficult time.

“It has been such a privilege to have worked so closely with Spread a Smile since the beginning and it seemed like the perfect fit to join the team when the opportunity arose. It’s a real honour to be given this exciting opportunity. Everyone at Spread a Smile is extremely passionate and dedicated to improving the experience for children and young people facing illness and hospitalisation, and this is evident in everything the charity does. Spread a Smile values professionalism, but still manages to keep that personal touch for parents, families and hospital staff, which is so important, especially as the charity grows and develops. I’ll be leading on service delivery within the NHS. I’ll be looking at how we currently deliver our service and how we can expand and improve in our existing hospitals, as well as help to expand into new hospitals so we can support even more children, young people and families within the greater London area. I’ll also be helping to implement new projects and initiatives and be a part of a research study that will be conducted to measure the impact we’re having on our service users.

“I’m currently working on building relationships with additional London hospitals with a view to sending our entertainers there in the future. I’d also like to develop a bespoke individual referrals pathway to support patients and families who could benefit from one-on-one visits in hospital. For example, patients receiving palliative care or patients who have been in hospital for long periods of time and really need a pick-me-up! Although we already do a little bit of this, I would really like to increase this service as I’ve seen first-hand the benefits this can have for patients.”