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George

Our incredible Summer Party!

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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. As well as this, 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 experiencing some normality away from the hospital.

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!

Spreading joy at Camp Beaumont

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We were delighted to partner with Camp Beaumont for a second consecutive year, throwing parties at five of their school sites across London on Friday 5th August! This included, Colfe’s School, Mill Hill School, Kings College School, Claremont Fan Court School, St Helen’s School.

The events were attended by our amazing entertainers including singers, singing fairies, magicians, face painters who dazzled the children. There was a packed afternoon of activities including face painting, bouncy castle, playing guess the number of sweets in the jar and water fights. Younger ones loved listening to their favourite songs being sung by our singing fairies and asking them about life in fairy land!

We are hugely grateful to the team at Camp Beaumont for their generous support. In addition to helping to promote the work of Spread a Smile to the families attending the camps, they have also organised a raffle to raise funds in aid of our work. Thank you Camp Beaumont!

Journeying 100km across the Greenlandic fjords for Spread a Smile

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Last week, two of Spread a Smile’s most daring supporters, Andrew Bloom and Jon Benton, took on a mighty challenge to kayak 100km across the glorious Greenlandic fjords.

Although it sounds idyllic, our two daredevils travelled deep into the Arctic circle for a tough seven-day expedition of camping in the wild, rowing the icy waters, and then hiking across the craggy Qaleralig glacier.

While training for their expedition, they were busy trying to raise as much money as possible, and have already surpassed their £10,000 fundraising target.

Jon and Andrew said: ‘We wanted to raise as much money has possible for Spread a Smile. We have fully funded this expedition ourselves so that every penny raised can help fund the great work that they do.’

We were cheering them on from afar as they set out on their trek, and were thrilled to be able to celebrate their achievement with them when they returned to the warm(er) shores of the UK.

Thank you so much to Andrew and Jon for all the money they have raised to support the work we do. We hope you appreciated the blankets, hot choccies, and plenty of smiles we had ready for you on your return!

You can find out more about Jon and Andrew’s story on their fundraising page here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/arctickayak

Back at Great Ormond Street Hospital after 27 months

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Last week, we were overjoyed and admittedly a little bit emotional to return to Great Ormond Street Hospital for the first time since the pandemic started over two years ago. GOSH holds a special place in our hearts, being the first hospital that we worked with when Spread a Smile started nine years ago, so we couldn’t wait to be back on the wards with the children.

We returned with a whole host of new and familiar faces to entertain the children and their families. Mr Magic and Magic Louise added some enchantment to the visit, while fairy Ellie and fairy Becca brought their sparkle. On top of this, we had wonderful music from Sar and Rosie with their guitars, and our amazing singer, Collette.

To top it off, we also brought along our newest ambassador, Britain’s Got Talent winner and unbelievable magician, Richard Jones. This was only Richard’s second visit with us to Great Ormond Street, and his first since the pandemic began! It was so special to be able to bring him to the wards and meet the children we support.

Laura Walter, Director of Services at Spread a Smile, said: ‘We were able to visit the majority of the inpatient wards and were welcomed back joyfully by children, parents and staff. Seeing children’s faces light up during our in-person visits is a feeling we’ve greatly missed.’

Lizzie Penn, Senior Play Specialist at Great Ormond Street Hospital said: ‘Everyone was so excited to see Spread a Smile back face to face, even though they have continued to support us virtually, seeing them in person made things feel normal again. One entertainer who has zoomed in every week said to hear the patient react was incredible as they can’t hear those subtle noises over zoom. All patients, families and staff were buzzing. Thank you so very much for continuing to support us, it means so much.’

Our flurry of in-person visits is set to continue this week as we will also be returning to the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital and Evelina London Children’s Hospital for bucket loads more entertainment and smiles.

Two wonderful days at Great Ormond Street

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We were overjoyed to be back at Great Ormond Street Hospital this week for two brilliant events, Play Street and Get Active! These next couple of weeks mark our first official visits back to the wards, and we’re grateful to be able to start our in-person work again at the Hospital.

Play Street is a wonderful initiative held on Clean Air Day, aimed at raising awareness and increasing air quality at the Hospital. It forms a key part of our ongoing efforts to support seriously unwell children, their families, staff members and the local community.

On the day, Great Ormond Street transformed into a vibrant, buzzy, rainbow-themed play area, where the children were able to let loose and enjoy playing with their friends and family. The activities championed the therapeutic, emotional and psychological benefits of playing, in a safe, clean-air environment.

From falconry to gaming, and from giant bubbles to street painting, we celebrated Clean Air Day in style.

Get Active was Great Ormond Street’s very own sports day. With a wide range of activities available to over 500 families, staff and friends, the day was focused on promoting the benefits of being active following recovery, and encouraged children to get involved as much as possible.

Our team contributed to the fantastic day with magic shows, face-painting with Marina and Yvette, singing from our dazzling fairy Becca, spontaneous poetry, and a visit from our therapy dog, Thomas.

We were so delighted to be involved in the day’s activities, and proud to have contributed to bringing joy to so many children and families.

Inspiring contemporary art tours

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We are so proud to work with the wonderful Karen Smith, who has been conducting contemporary art tours around London, with all proceeds raised going to Spread a Smile.

As an art history graduate and supporter of many London and UK contemporary art institutions, she has a deep and passionate knowledge of the UK contemporary art scene. She uses this knowledge to conduct bi-monthly tours, to discover the most interesting artists, gallery shows, institutions and private collections, all across London from Deptford to Camden.

Upcoming trips this year include an amazing opportunity on the 18th of October to visit the Frieze Sculpture exhibition in Regents Park, the exclusive Cranford private Collection (led by the collectors, Freddy and Muriel Salem themselves), and see highlights at the Fitzrovia gallery.

Also, on the 16th of November, Karen is leading a tour of the Bermondsey Galleries and a private collection focusing on contemporary women artists.

One of recent participants of one of her tours said, ‘You have opened my eyes to a part of London which I hardly knew existed, and has been be a great addition to the joys which our city has to offer.’

There is a suggested donation of a £100, with all the proceeds going to Spread a Smile, and you can donate via this link: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Karen-Smith243?utm_source=Sharethis&utm_medium=fundraising&utm_content=Karen-Smith243&utm_campaign=pfp-email&utm_term=

You can also contact her directly at karen@romneys.net if you are interested in attending any of the upcoming tours, or if you want to receive information about the other tours this year!

Our magical new ambassador – Richard Jones

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We’re over the moon to announce that Britain’s Got Talent winner, Lance Corporal Richard Jones is now a Spread a Smile ambassador. The only magician to ever win Britain’s Got Talent, he regularly performs for royals and celebrities, at parties and theatres around the world. He’s now bringing his spellbinding magic into hospitals to bring a smile to critically-ill children and young people.

On becoming a Spread a Smile ambassador, Richard said, “My experience performing in hospitals with Spread a Smile are among my most cherished memories so far, seeing how big an impact it makes on individuals is truly magical. I’ve joined the roster of entertainers which include fairies, artists and singers, amongst others, and every single incredible performer creates such a positive experience during what is no doubt a scary time in the children’s lives. The most noble art is of course making others smile, and the inspiringly brave children I have met during visits always put a big smile onto my face too. To be chosen as an ambassador is such an honour.”

Lucy Jackson, CEO at Spread a Smile said: “It’s incredible to watch children’s reactions to meeting Richard and seeing him perform. Some of them are huge fans already so not only are they getting to see a Spread a Smile magician in hospital but they are also getting to meet a real hero of theirs. We are so delighted and honoured that Richard has become an official Spread a Smile Ambassador and we are looking forward to working more closely with him and can’t wait to introduce him to more children across our hospital network in the future.”

RideLondon 2022 – Meet our team!

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On Sunday 29 May, 11 wonderful riders took part in RideLondon in aid of Spread a Smile! The annual 100-mile bike ride around London and Essex involved over 15,000 participants. The funds raised by our Smile Heroes will help us to support seriously ill children in hospital.

The riders were: Jimmy Tsekoyras, Pagnagiotis Tsekoyras, Laurence Kidd, James Jacobs, Guy Shaul, Zack Case, Karo Bonas, Adam Diamant, Anthony Gubba, Alain Stechler and Dave Farrell.

One of our riders, Laurence Kidd, was inspired to ride following the support we gave his niece, Maisie. Maisie was born nine weeks prematurely and spent the first weeks of her life in SCU after it transpired she had suffered two significant brain haemorrhages. She unfortunately still suffers from many further health issues, including cerebral palsy, epilepsy and blindness. Now aged 18, she has spent a significant amount of her life in hospital.

We first met Maisie and her family during lockdown in 2020, and Laurence described the work we did as invaluable. As Maisie and her family lost their social life during lockdown restrictions and shielding, we were able to provide some normality and joy to their lives.

Not only did we support Maisie, we also helped her sister Poppy to engage with others, as she had to start home-schooling to protect her shielding sister.

Just before the race, Laurence said, ‘Doing events such as RideLondon is my way of repaying Spread a Smile for the work they have done to support my family over the pandemic. I do have quite a bit of cycling experience and previously completed the 50-mile ride. While this is the longest ride I will have done, I feel confident and ready. Most of all, I’m so excited to see my wife and son at the finish line on Tower Bridge, which is where I proposed!’

After the event, Laurence said he was sore but had an amazing day! He completed the 100-mile course in 6 hours and 23 minutes, which is a great achievement.

You can still donate to Laurence’s JustGiving page here.

Huge thanks from all of us at Spread a Smile to our team of cyclists for all the training and efforts on the big day; we are incredibly grateful.

Tea-time! Our new partnership with Mildreds

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We’re delighted to have partnered with Midreds Restaurants, a gorgeous group of plant-based restaurants! We had our first Spread a Smile tea party at their Covent Garden location last month, where the team at the restaurant put on a fantastic spread, including cheese toasties, fruit, brownies, cookies and cheesecakes!

We also brought four families to the Covent Garden restaurant this week, where the children were entertained by the wonderful Mr Magic. Jordan the manager of Mildred’s Covent Garden made this visit extra special by allowing the children to pick their own juices and watch them being made, which caused much excitement.

It was lovely to be able to bring critically ill children and young people to the tea party with their loved ones, to experience a proper afternoon tea.

They have locations in Soho, Camden, Kings Cross, Dalston, Covent Garden and Borough, so we hope that this partnership will be an opportunity for families to take a break for a couple of hours away from the hospital, across many of our partner facilities in London.

Aside from our tea party, Mildreds were also kind enough to provide Brownies for our trip to the Lion King on the West End!

Sam Anstey, Managing Director at Mildreds said, ‘We are proud to be working with such a special charity. Spread a Smile do amazing work and all our teams are so pleased to be able to support them. It has been great to be involved and to experience the impact that Spread a Smile have in helping others.’

Football legends join blockbuster fundraiser!

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On Friday, 13th of May, a 7-a-side football tournament took place at Billericay Town F.C. in aid of Spread a Smile! Organised and coordinated by LMAC Group and DNA Insurance, many teams from local Essex businesses competed in the grand competition.

We can’t thank Lee McDowell of LMAC Group and Danny Imray from DNA Insurance enough, both for their work in putting on the amazing event, and their decision to support Spread a Smile!

As well as the football, there was also an auction of many historic sporting items, which included Tyson Fury signed trunks, a Floyd Mayweather signed glove, signed football memorabilia, luxury hotel stays and much more.

Through the fundraising and the auction, an incredible £20,224 was raised for Spread a Smile, an amount which will be invaluable in supporting our mission to bring smiles to critically-ill children and their families in hospital.

Also attending the day were West Ham legends, Sir Trevor Brooking, Tony Gale, and Mark Ward. It was a wonderful opportunity for the Spread a Smile team to chat to some sporting legends, hearing some of their stories and telling them about the important work that we do.

As a thank you for their incredible work in organising this event, we have dedicated a hospital visit at St Mary’s this week to Lee, Danny, and all those who took part in and organised the tournament!

As a thank you for their incredible work in organising this event, our CEO, Lucy Jackson, said “We dedicated a hospital visit at St Mary’s Hospital to Lee, Danny, and all those who took part in and organised the tournament.  Collectively they raised an incredible amount of money for us, which will help fund our work locally and across the UK, supporting seriously ill children in hospital.  We can’t thank Lee, Danny and everyone involved enough. It’s only with the help of our supporters organising events, introducing us to their peers and helping spread the word of our work that we can continue to spread smiles far and wide.”

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