We held our first ever Summer Party on Wednesday 3 August, which proved to be our biggest and best event ever and we’re thankful to everyone who made it such a success. Seeing so many familiar faces was wonderful, especially outside of a hospital environment, in sunny Coram’s Fields in London.
In total, we had over 613 guests at the party: 330 patients and their siblings, 261 family members and carers plus 22 play specialists.
For many, our summer party was a rare opportunity to get off the wards to spend time having fun with their family. So many of the children we support require constant care, or are required to isolate in their rooms. Giving them an opportunity to celebrate and spend quality time with their family makes a huge difference in their lives and allows them to experience some normality for a day. Opportunities like our party are few and far between for the families we support.
The children who came had no shortage of things to do, as we had stations for face painting, teddy bear t-shirt decorating, sensory play, aromatherapy for parents, arts and crafts, magic, animals and so much more! The kids all got stuck in and were able to try everything, and it was amazing to see them moving from table to table to try all the activities. One particular favourite was where they could design clothes for the hundreds of soft toy pandas provided by Ikea or shoot the Nerf guns into the target with our friends from Hasbro.
As well as this, there were some amazing sweet treats! Lola’s Cupcakes came with their trailer where you could design your own flavours, while Crosstown doughnuts brought incredible mini doughnuts to sample. Also, we had generous donations from Greggs, Valeo Foods Group, Ocado, and Play in Choc.
On our main stage, we had performances from some our favourite entertainers, many of whom the children will have met during virtual visits or on Smile TV, but were able to meet in person for the first time. This included the incredible Judge The Poet and Captain Calamity. For our music obsessed guests, we had sing-alongs with our fairies Jasmin, Danny, Ellie, Tasha, Becca and Kirtsen and amazing singers, Collette and Joanna. The children had a great time dancing and singing to their favourite songs, while Krisgar and Tricky Teddy provided some magical entertainment.
The most rewarding part of the day for us was seeing the joy we were able to bring to these children and their families. It was a delight to watch them arrive with a smile on their face and anticipation to get stuck into the activities, or watch the activity on the stage. We spoke to parents who felt relieved and emotional at seeing their child having a great time, and experience the excitement and joy that should be part of every childhood.
One of these children was Jacob, who at five years old was attending his second ever party! Jacob has spent a significant amount of his life in hospitals, since first falling ill at 18 months old. Since then, he has spent a lot of time in at Great Ormond Street Hospital following bone marrow transplants, which required him to isolate for long periods. This has impacted Jacob’s ability to socialise and start school, but through our virtual sessions, he was able to sing and dance. Being able to host him and his mum at the party was such an immense privilege, and seeing him interact with our entertainers in person was touching.
As one mum said: “We have had the best day. You really don’t know how much this event has boosted my confidence to get out and do something. Leo being immunosuppressed after his heart transplant obviously makes him very open and vulnerable to infections but straight after clinic today we crossed that road and entered the park. I was anxious with the volume of people but my goodness I shouldn’t have been. Leo who has never ever had a summer out of hospital after going in at 8 months old and coming out at 2 years old. I always wondered how he would adapt to life outside… he embraced everything!!!! Thank you for getting us out and in a community where we feel safe, secure and happy. What I saw from Leo today was bonding, laughter, interaction and lots of new things to explore. I owe you the world and can’t find the words to thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
And another who said “What a dream today has been. Thank you so much Spread a Smile for a magical day. Everyone was thoroughly spoilt and Kallie has had the best day. From seeing her favourite fairy, to the bubbles, to the treats to the singing, today has been a dream. We are truly lucky to have such an amazing charity supporting Kallie and many other children who deserve the world and more throughout their journeys.”
We’d like to give a huge thank you to everyone who volunteered. Your commitment and selflessness allowed us to provide so much more fun and entertainment during the day. We’d also like to thank Derwent Art, Staedtler UK, Hunter Price International, Morrisons, Rainbow Designs, Spin Master, Costa Coffee, Swizzels, Tesco, Hasbro Under the Canvas, and City Scaffolding for their incredible generosity.
Finally, thank you to all who attended. Being able to put on events such as this is incredibly rewarding, and knowing that we can make a difference to your family is so special.
You can see more photos from the day on our Instagram!