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Susie

Fundraisers from Once in a Lifetime Holidays raising vital funds to help spread smiles to seriously ill children.

Fundraising to support children like Isaac

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We’re so grateful to every one of our fundraisers who do so much to help raise funds to ensure we can continue spreading smiles to the families we support.

Recently Once in a Lifetime Holidays chose to fundraise to help spread smiles through a challenge packed tour of Europe, with a little boy called Isaac as their motivation, raising £1,355 so far.

“In June 2020 Isaac aged 3 was diagnosed with a rare brain tumour. He spent many months during COVID in Great Ormond Street Hospital with only one of his parents allowed to be present. The two of them were isolated from the outside world, facing the most terrifying ordeal. Isaac underwent operations, chemotherapy and stem cell therapy and his care was excellent, however it was the team at Spread a Smile that really brought a smile to his gorgeous face at the most awful time.

“Isaac is the most amazing young boy, and his mum is nothing short of a superhero and we wanted to raise money to help other children and families smile during these very difficult times.

“So, the Team at Once in a Lifetime Holidays along with several other colleagues from the travel industry decided to take on a tour of Europe, undertaking challenges and events enroute to raise as much money as possible for Spread a Smile.

“Seeing Isaac smile is a gift, and we hope to help Spread a Smile spread even more smiles to seriously ill children and their families as well.”

Thank you to everyone at Once in a Lifetime Holidays and their colleagues for supporting Spread a Smile and children like Isaac. We couldn’t do what we do without you.

If you have a fundraising idea and would like to help spread smiles, please email Tasha at tasha@spreadasmile.org – we’re here for you every step of the way. Or visit our Support Us pages for inspiration.

Mildreds and Sister Act for our VIPs

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When you’re looking for a memorable experience in London, then dinner followed by a trip to see a West End musical is definitely top of the list. Last week, we treated some of the families supported by Spread a Smile to just that.

We began the party at Mildreds Restaurant in Covent Garden where not only did our families get to enjoy a delicious vegan dinner, they were also entertained throughout with singing, amazing magic, face painting, arts and crafts and our gorgeous therapy dog Buddy, who also came for some cuddles.

After our tummies were full, we headed down to a very special relaxed performance of Sister Act The Musical at London’s Dominion Theatre. The excitement filled the auditorium as everyone relaxed into their seats and enjoyed the amazing show, featuring a star-studded cast. One of guests, Evie, aged 13 was so excited to see actor Ruth Jones perform as she is a big fan of hers and said after the show: “Ruth definitely waved at me!” with a smile from ear to ear.

Evie’s Mum Jo said, “Honestly, thank you from the bottom of my heart. The work you do is just amazing and I’m not sure that thank you is enough for the happiness my girl is feeling right now.”

Viktoria, mum of Emily (13) also said, “We would love to tell you how wonderful you all are! Thank you for all your hard work and lovely smiles to make so many little lives happy. We had a wonderful time with you all and special thank you to the magician Nick, he really blew our minds with his amazing magic!”

We are so grateful to our friends at Mildreds for their continued and generous support and to everyone at the Dominion Theatre for making us so welcome.

Spread a Smile completely relies on donations and support from generous individuals and organisations to fund family events such as this. Please donate here to help ensure we can continue to provide this support for many more families. Thank you.

Bristol radiotherapy mask painting workshop

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Spread a Smile delivers some incredible art initiatives for children and young people across our NHS hospital partners, including art workshops which support creativity and distraction and bespoke murals which enrich hospital wards and windows, helping to make the hospital environment more welcoming.

Another important part of the charity’s art programme is the personalisation of radiotherapy masks for children and teenagers going through treatment for brain, head and neck cancer.

The programme is delivered by Spread a Smile’s Head of Art, Marina, who works closely with patients preparing for radiotherapy treatment to find out their interests and how they would like their masks decorated. Sometimes a patient draws their own sketch and then Marina will take the ideas and create a bespoke and individual decoration for the mask. The process helps to make the mask less frightening, and experience shows that the patient often becomes very proud of their mask.

Last month Marina visited Spread a Smile’s NHS hospital partner Bristol Royal Children’s Hospital to deliver a special radiotherapy mask training workshop for oncology play specialists from the hospital. The aim was to share our skills and understanding of this important activity with the team at Bristol to enable to them to support patients under their care with their designs.

Each attendee came with their own radiotherapy mask and Marina shared different techniques and ideas for painting the masks using special posca pens. Everyone chose their own design and painted their own mask, to experience the process for themselves, before engaging in a useful discussion about how the masks and painting can be used as a preparation tool for patients needing the masks, helping to make them less worrying.

Britney Wookey, Oncology Play Specialist at Bristol Royal Children’s Hospital took part in the workshop saying, “It’s been long awaited for us to be able to paint radiotherapy masks and thanks to Spread a smile our patients will be offered to help design and paint their mask if they wish. Radiotherapy can be a scary treatment for a child at first but being able to decorate their mask so it is unique to them will give them a sense of control and choice. We now have band new kit gifted by spread a smile and their lovely artist, Marina, taught us some of her amazing art skills. Now we can’t wait to bring our patient’s ideas to life!”

Spread a Smile is proud of this bespoke area of work which reaches and supports young cancer patients during one of the most terrifying times of their lives. As one Mum said, “My son didn’t mind wearing his mask once it was painted and enjoyed talking with other children about what they had on their masks. He was so proud to show it to people. We now have it home and it is a prized possession on his desk which he proudly shows to everyone who comes in. His mask was his protection, and he was proud of what he had been through.”

To find out more about Spread a Smile’s services, please click here.

Forever Colours – new hospice partner

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Spread a Smile today announces its newest hospice partner, Forever Colours, a children’s hospice which cares for families of children with learning disabilities and life-limiting and life-threatening conditions as well as those with profound-and-multiple learning difficulties across Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes.

Spread a Smile’s mission is to bring joy and laughter to as many seriously ill children as possible in NHS hospitals, clinical settings, hospices and homes across the UK.  Forever Colours joins five other hospices, and 32 major and speciality NHS hospitals already supported by Spread a Smile, taking the charity one step closer to its aim, to spread smiles across the whole of the UK.

The Spread a Smile team of talented entertainers, including musicians, artists, magicians and therapy dogs, will support regular events for the children and their families at Forever Colours, spending quality time with patients and helping to spread smiles through music, magic, singing and more.  The most recent activity at Forever Colours, supported by the charity, was the hospice’s Summer Fete at the beginning of June which was attended by their entertainers.

Children and young people supported by Forever Colours will also benefit from treat drops and virtual entertainment, all with the aim of spreading smiles and a lot of happiness.

Forever Colours, family Support worker, Vicki Nicholson, is delighted by this partnership. “The joy the Spread a Smile team brings to the faces of the children and their families we support is always heartwarming to see, and we couldn’t be happier that this partnership is going to create more smiles! Everyone at Forever Colours is very grateful”.

Laura Walter, Spread a Smile Director of Services added, “It is a pleasure to be working with the amazing team at Forever Colours to help bring some joy and laughter to their children and families. Most recently we were delighted to join them for their Summer Fete, meeting some of the children and their families and helping to spread smiles with singing, music, balloons, bubbles and more. It was a very special day, and we are looking forward to many more in the future.” 

To find out more about Spread a Smile’s work supporting NHS hospitals and hospices, please click here.

Visit to Bristol Royal Hospital for Children

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Spread a Smile has been supporting the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children for a few years through virtual sessions and treat drops, and it’s always very special when we visit the hospital in person.

Last month, a team of Spread a Smile entertainers along with our Director of Services Laura Walter and Marina our Head of Art, made the trip to Bristol. They visited and provided bespoke entertainment to many children and young people across six wards and ended the day at the hospital’s Activity Centre with the Centre’s Play Assistant Daisy saying:

Spread a Smile instantly engaged the children in the Activity Centre through song, sparkles, bubbles and magic! They came in with infectious energy and got down on the children’s level straight away. The parents and myself were just as engaged as the children!”

Laura from Spread a Smile added, “It’s important for us to reach as many children and young people across our hospital partners as possible – visiting in person where we can to provide much needed distraction, entertainment and joy during some of the most difficult times. It was wonderful to be able to spend so much time, not only with the children and young people across the wards, but also with the brilliant Play Team at the hospital who already do so much for the children under their care. We are looking forward to making a return visit soon.”

Bristol Royal Hospital for Children is one of 32 NHS hospitals and five hospices supported by Spread a Smile, receiving support for seriously ill children and young people under their care through in-person and virtual entertainer visits and group sessions, seasonal activities, treat drops and more.

To find out more about Spread a Smile’s work, click here.

The Arsenal Foundation donates grant

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Spread a Smile, the charity on a mission to bring joy and laughter to seriously ill children in hospital via talented entertainers including musicians, artists, magicians and therapy dogs, has received a from The Arsenal Foundation, which will be put towards supporting the ongoing work that the charity provides across its hospital partners.

Arsenal Football Club has always understood the power it has to make a difference in the community and as the club has grown so has its ability to make that difference. Arsenal’s tradition of giving sees it make contributions to good causes local to the club.  Spread a Smile neighbours Arsenal, with its HQ situated nearby the club in Hornsey and its work highlighted by one of its members.

The Arsenal Foundation supported through a grant, following an application which included the story of one of their young fans, Amelia, aged 11, who fought a brain tumour and was supported by the Spread a Smile team during her long hospital stays and beyond.

Lucy Jackson, Spread a Smile Chief Executive said of the grant, “We are immensely thankful to The Arsenal Foundation for their generous donation. The funding will help us spread more smiles in hospital which can make a significant difference to a child and their family during a challenging time. It is wonderful to receive support from the local community and we’re delighted to be neighbours with a Foundation that both supports our mission as well as drives its own initiatives for good.”

Gemma, Amelia’s mum, tells her daughter’s story:

“When Amelia was eight years old she started to experience headaches and stomach pain at night.  Her symptoms continued and we started noticing that she didn’t seem to be growing, wasn’t eating properly and started to lose weight, plus kept losing her balance.

Amelia was referred to hospital and an MRI scan revealed a large mass on her brain.  She was diagnosed with Germinoma, a brain tumour in January 2023.   What followed was four cycles of chemotherapy, during which time Amelia was often very unwell, in and out of hospital for blood transfusions.  It was an extremely emotional time for us all.  Amelia just wanted to be at home with her family!

In April 2023, Amelia was referred for a three-week course of Proton Beam Therapy at UCLH, during which time she and I stayed together, visiting hospital every day for treatment.  It was a very difficult time.  We were away from home and the rest of the family, and Amelia was often so ill we weren’t able to do anything else at all.  

My husband Scott had met some of the Spread a Smile team during a hospital visit.  They introduced themselves and offered to support us, mentioning a forthcoming day out at Mildreds restaurant and a planned tripped to see Frozen at the theatre. The outing gave us the chance to do something as a family.  We went to see Frozen just after Amelia finished her proton treatment and it was brilliant to have her sisters join in for such a special day out.

Having been under pressure financially due to needing to look after all our children, the outing was a well needed treat for the whole family and something we would never have been able to afford ourselves.

Spread a Smile gave us a place to be together, not having to worry about money.  There was entertainment including magic, singing and so much more to help cheer us all up and forget about all the other stuff we were going through.  It was amazing seeing the faces of our children!  The girls enjoyed face painting, balloon making and eating Lola’s cupcakes. 

I just sat down, relaxed and watched my children have fun and smile. 

Amelia rang the bell at Colchester Hospital in July 2023 to mark the end of her cancer treatment, but Spread a Smile is still supporting us and we enjoyed a family trip to the Lake District when Amelia finished her treatment.

Seeing Amelia go through her treatment was so hard.  She was so sick and there was so much worry and pain.  Being away from the family was extremely difficult and a very lonely time for me too.  Spread a Smile injected light back into our lives.  They gave us something to look forward to and a place to be together again as a family.  We will forever be grateful to the team.”

Mamma Mia – My, my what a show!

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My, my what a show! The team from Spread a Smile had a glorious afternoon taking nine of the families we support to see Mamma Mia the Musical at the Novello Theatre in London.

Our VIPS loved watching the smash hit musical, singing, dancing and clapping along and the smiles were as bright as the theatre lights.

After the show, our families were incredibly lucky to meet several members of the cast, who kindly gave up their time to pose for photos and answer any questions our families had. Tessa, 10, who wants to be performer asked, “do you ever forget your lines?” and “do all the cast members get on?”.

Lauren, mum of Elsa (13) said “Thank you so, so much for yesterday it was amazing and as I predicted Elsa has not stopped telling everyone especially how she “met the characters” – I keep telling her they are the cast! She has taken the programme into school today. I honestly cannot express our gratitude as always, words do not seem enough.”

A huge Spread a Smile thank you to the cast of Mamma Mia for being so amazing and taking the time out of their busy schedule to meet our families after the show – you’re all Super Troupers!

To find out more about our family events, click here.

Announcing our new Family Fun Day

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Spread a Smile is delighted to announce its newest fundraising event, our first ever Family Fun Day, generously supported by Sharesy and in collaboration with Non-Stop Action.

To be held on Saturday 28 September at Holly Park Primary School, London N11, the Family Fun Day is a day for our supporters and their families to enjoy, packed full of family-friendly activities, exciting games, and amazing entertainment, all while raising funds to support Spread a Smile.

Our guests will take on the challenge of completing different activity stations, working together as a team to win certificates and prizes. There will also be the chance to meet and see Spread a Smile’s amazing entertainers in action, with magic, music, arts and crafts, face-painting and more.

This fun-filled day out is a great opportunity for our friends and supporters to experience first-hand the joy and laughter Spread a Smile brings to families across the country, helping to raise vital funds to support seriously ill children and their families when they need us most.

A family ticket costs just £25 and you can register for the Family Fun Day here!

The event is generously sponsored by our friends at Sharesy. Felix Atkins, Founder, CEO at Sharesy shared with us his motivation for supporting the Family Fun Day “In March 2021, my son was diagnosed with an auto-inflammatory disease, my priorities and focus shifted in ways I could never have imagined. My wife, Vicki, and I spent the next six weeks in a small hospital room with our little boy, swapping every three days to spend time with our daughter at home. It was every parent’s nightmare. 

“Fortunately, the team at Great Ormond Street Hospital were amazing. We were also supported by the amazing team at Spread a Smile. This wonderful charity brings joy and laughter to seriously ill and hospitalised children and their families during long hospital stays. 

“Coincidentally, we discovered that we shared the same co-working office as Spread a Smile in Highbury. We have since moved to a new location near Archway and whilst we miss the wonderful team at Spread a Smile, we take every opportunity to help them with fundraising or preparing gifts for the children they support. 

“My son’s diagnosis was undoubtedly life-changing, but it also showed me how strong we can be when we come together during difficult times. It certainly puts the stresses of running a start up into perspective and we are delighted to be able to support the Spread Smile Family Fun Day and help spread smiles to even more children and young people when they need it most.”

If you are interested in finding out more about the sponsorship opportunities for this event, please contact our Community Fundraising Manager, Tasha Mann at tashamann@spreadasmile.org or sign up to our enews to stay up to date.

With thanks to Sharesy for their support:

5-a-side Football Tournament success

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Last Thursday saw Spread a Smile’s fifth annual 5-a-side Football Tournament take place, this time at Powerleague Shepherd’s Bush.

The sun was shining and we were delighted to welcome our teams for a competitive day of football and fun, with Spread a Smile magician Gary on hand to help keep everyone entertained in between games.

The tournament was closely fought, with Corinthia London emerging victorious and winning the cup, with Enra Specialist Finance coming a close second. Also congratulations to BN McVitie’s who won the plate.

Imogen Slazenger, Spread a Smile’s Head of Fundraising attended on the day saying, “It was a pleasure to welcome so many supporters and new friends for this brilliant event. A huge thank you to all everyone who joined us for their energy, enthusiasm and commitment helping to raise thousands of pounds to support our work spreading smiles to seriously ill children and their families when they’re needed most. We hope to see you back next year!”

Please get in touch with Alicia by emailing alicia@spreadasmile.org to find out more about next year’s football tournament or how you can support one of our other events.

Canary Wharf Contractors Fund Golf Day

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Earlier this month on a beautiful Summer’s Day, our friends at Canary Wharf Contractors Fund held their hugely popular charity Golf Day at London Golf Club.

The event is held every year to raise funds for their charity partners and Spread a Smile was honoured to be amongst them, with the charity’s Chief Executive, Lucy Jackson and Head of Fundraising, Imogen Slazenger attending on the day.

Welcoming almost 200 golfers to play on the renowned Jack Nicklaus designed championship course, the event was one to remember, with two of our brilliant magicians also joining in the fun with magic, tricks and fun for guests.

Lucy Jackson said, “We are so grateful to everyone at Canary Wharf Contractors Fund for their ongoing belief in and support of our work, helping to spread smiles to seriously ill children and young people across the country. Thank you to all those involved including everyone who played, bid on the silent auction, donated on the day and helped raise much needed funds for Spread a Smile and the other worthy causes.”

Please do get in touch with our Head of Fundraising, Imogen by emailing imogen@spreadasmile.org if you would like to chat about supporting Spread a Smile through a (fundraising) event.