Louise Spread a Smile entertainer

Meet entertainer Louise

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Louise is one of our entertainers, sharing her many skills as a balloon artist, magician, face painter and children’s entertainer. She has worked with Spread a Smile for two years and is best known for the amazing bespoke balloon models she creates for the children and young people she meets.

How did you start working for Spread a Smile?

Louise Spread a Smile entertainerI’ve been a children’s entertainer for 20 years, and love everything about my work; the joy it brings people, the fun I share with everyone, and the wonderful teams and people I have the pleasure of working with. I feel incredibly lucky to earn a living from something that brings so much happiness.

“I initially started working for a party franchise as the face painter and balloon modeller and over my time with them, I trained up to become a senior entertainer, fully running their parties and events. I enjoyed it so much, that I eventually set up my own party business and am still loving every second.

“I’ve always included balloon modelling as part of my shows, but started researching balloon art in more detail. I arranged to meet with a local balloon artist and started to attend balloon art learning events and conventions. Since then, I have won many awards for my balloon art, and taken part in special events with some of the best balloon artists in the world.

“Both of my twins have additional needs, and I have worked as a support assistant in two special needs schools. My personal journey has given me lots of experience working with and getting to know lots of children, young people and families, with all sorts of diversities.

“When a friend and colleague asked if he could put me forward to work with Spread a Smile, I was over the moon. The Spread a Smile entertainers are the best and I felt honoured to even be considered. The charity stands for everything my heart loves about my job, and I can relate to how important it is to provide a positive distraction from every day difficulties and challenged. I knew it was something I would love to be part of.

Tell us about your work for Spread a Smile

“I joined Spread a Smile during lockdown in Summer 2020, initially doing magic shows over Zoom until hospitals allowed us back to visit in person. I then started to make bespoke balloon sculptures for children to keep.

Louise Spread a Smile entertainer The Hulk“When I meet a patient, I invite them to ask for a balloon sculpture they would like. I have a ‘menu’ of ideas to inspire them such as spiderman, a mermaid, unicorn, dinosaur, princess, tiger etc, but I am open to trying anything and often suggest they challenge me with an idea! This usually builds the excitement as they begin to think of something they think would be impossible to make. I always take on the challenge, and there aren’t many things I haven’t had a go at making.

“I’m so proud of my work as a Spread a Smile entertainer. We bring distraction and fun for patients and families who spend so much time bored, stuck in hospital, with very little to do, meeting medical professionals and having serious conversations. The entertainers come along with a completely different and new energy, helping people to escape that “hospital feeling” – even if it’s for a short while. We try to make the children we meet feel special, and I love the fact that they get to keep the balloon models and hopefully it will make them smile for days to come.

“It’s brilliant to see the wonder on a child’s face as a simple balloon or two is transformed into something special that they have requested. The parents and carers love it too – it’s a moment of escape where they can forget the severity of what is happening to them.

Tell us about your most unusual requests for balloon models
Balloon model“I’ve had some brilliant requests on my hospital visits, with some of the most memorable including a hedgehog and an axolotl. I make a lot of favourite footballers, Mr Tumble and Elsa. I’ve made balloon versions of favourite toys or pets as a lot of children are missing their pets, so they show me a photo and I build them a balloon version of their cat, dog, rabbit or guinea pig, so that it matches perfectly. I’ve even been asked to make a sculpture of one of the nurses on a ward!”

What about your balloon modelling online workshops

“Balloon modelling workshops are so much fun! Each participant is sent their own pack of modelling balloons and a pump in the post, and I start by teaching the children how to inflate their balloon safely with the right amount of air. Then we learn how to easily tie a knot. We often start with something like a balloon dog, then move onto an advanced flower with one balloon for the petals, and another one for the stem and the leaves. We make sure that we send out lots of spare balloons so that everyone can practice what they have learnt. It’s great to know we can reach even more seriously ill children and their siblings who may be isolating at home and not able to get out and about.”

Why do you do what you do?
“I love the reactions from parents, children, and even the hospital staff.  Quite often they watch me putting something together and have no idea what it will turn into, or they can’t imagine how I could possibly make their wild request from balloons. When it all comes together, the joy and reaction is my favourite part. I love how happy people are to receive a balloon sculpture of something they love. I always say “Can your balloon hang out with you for the day now? Will you let them watch TV with you? Or play your game together?” They always say yes, with a big grin, often hugging their new balloon friend. It brings me so much joy to give something so cherished.

“It’s really special to see the same patients again on my return visits and hear how long their balloon lasted and see photos of what we’ve made together before. One patient has a photo scrap book of all the balloons I’ve made her on each visit. She always plans what she’d like to ask for on my next visit. It’s so lovely for the children and families to have some positive and happy memories of their time in hospital, and I love that we can bring that for them.”

To help ensure entertainers like Louise can continue to spread smiles to seriously ill children and young people, please donate here. Thank you.