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Our work, our impact

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Spread a Smile currently works with 25 NHS hospital partners and two hospices to support seriously ill children and young people under their care. To understand more about our impact of our work, we spoke to Tina Halton, Play Service Team Lead at St Mary’s Hospital, London who we have been supporting since 2014.

Tina said: “Spread a Smile have a marvellous ability to make the staff smile, without compromising on their total commitment to making each child feel special. For example, the positive calming effect of the therapy dog visits on everyone is clear to see. Thomas and Harry (dogs) stop to ‘say’ hello to everyone from the consultants to the cleaners and you can see the staff continue with their day a little bit happier after a stroke. This sense of calm filters through and the staff love to share stories of their own pets with the families who can often be seen getting out photos of their pets and telling stories. Everyone love the visit days. It makes their day calmer and helps them do the medical/nursing roles whilst the children are entertained.

“Spread a Smile’s impact on the patients cannot be underestimated. Their entertainers are carefully chosen with care and it shows. They are the best of the best at what they do. By that I mean they are abundantly talented but most important are the subtleties of their interactions with each patient. Being able to engage and impress a teenager who’s having a terrible time, for a few quiet moments in a magic trick or capturing the mood on intensive care to sing a calm song to a baby who would otherwise be listening to the beeps on a machine is worth its weight in gold.

“Without Spread a Smile, the wards wouldn’t be quite so bright! Funding in the NHS is stretched so although we still try to make it as fun and nice as we can for the families, in reality, Marina’s window art and hospital murals bring a new life and positivity to an often-overlooked space. 

“On the days Spread a Smile don’t visit the wards, we still create fun for the kids, but it’s not the same as having a new entertainer visit or a surprise delivery of red heart Valentine’s Day balloons. These things remind the families that they haven’t been forgotten and the little moment of attention brings fresh smiles. The kids see us all the time so the novelty wears off! We would all be sad not to see a fresh smiling face. 

“I’ve seen Spread a Smile grow in both size and scope, but it hasn’t lost its heart at the core. The range of entertainment and events continue to be unique to Spread a Smile, but all possess the same personal touch. The hospital programme is expertly planned and delivered by people who understand the healthcare field well and really care. What they do appears effortless but in fact takes a lot of effort and dedication. Love goes into every virtual session, gift drop and visit. This is the magic. Nothing is too much – if they can make it happen, they will! 

“As Spread a Smile implements changes, they have always been focused first and foremost on the child. We know that safeguarding, safety and infection control is always a top priority and never an afterthought. Spread a Smile has confidently risen to the challenges of the last couple of years. Working alongside acute hospital trusts is never an easy task and none of us could plan for the impact this time has had on children in hospital. The adaptability and consistency of Spread a Smile throughout the pandemic and beyond proves that they are versatile and without a doubt one of our most reliable support. We moved fluidly alongside them as we all navigated the crazy hospital world during this time. It is exciting to be a part of what Spread a Smile does next.

“One of my most memorable moments of working with Spread a Smile was during a session with a poorly young girl with additional needs. She was in an isolation room as she had a low immune system so wasn’t allowed visitors. She had begun feeling very unwell and her Mum, who was staying by her bedside, was completely exhausted. The little girl joined a virtual session with Makaton (expertly aimed right at her level) and the Spread a Smile team got her to join in the group session. 

She laughed for the first time in days and her Mum took a video to send to her Dad of her eagerly signing back to the magician. 

“Unfortunately, our hospital Wi-Fi cut out towards the end of one of the tricks and she was in tears for missing it. A quick phone call to Spread a Smile and they arranged for the child to have a 1:1 mini session with some magic just for her. She was delighted, as was her very tired Mum. She guessed the colours in the trick and waved her hand at the screen to make things appear, it was just right!

“Sadly, this little girl was very poorly and passed away not long after this session. I feel confident that the video and memories of the smiles during this precious moment are priceless for the family.”

Please donate to help us continue our vital work supporting hospitals like St Mary’s and their patients. Thank you.

Easter egg-xtravaganza

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Each year, we spread a little joy to children in hospital during the Easter holidays by collecting and sending out Easter eggs to all 27 of our NHS hospital and hospice partners.

The eggs are kindly donated to us by our supporters purchasing eggs from our Amazon wish list and also generous companies either collecting eggs from staff or funding larger quantities of eggs.

Thanks to this support, we’ll send out over 3,000 eggs to be distributed to seriously ill children. It’s a huge task organising, packaging up and distributing so many eggs.

“Easter holidays spent in hospital when other children are out enjoying Springtime can be really challenging for young people on the wards. Receiving an Easter egg from Spread a Smile can make such a difference. It helps make the children feel included and special, bringing Easter fun into hospital so they don’t miss out.”

For a child stuck in hospital or hospice over the Easter weekend, receiving an egg can really help to spread some joy and springtime cheer. We have also planned a brilliant week of virtual Easter themed sessions for the children we support and their siblings. From biscuit decorating, to Easter art and a live session with Zoo2U, we hope to spread as many smiles as possible to families up and down the country.

We’d like to say a huge thank you to all of the individuals who generously bought eggs from our list and the following companies who have helped make our Easter initiatives possible including:

  • Enra who made a generous donation which not only enabled us to buy eggs and also fund additional Easter holiday activities;
  • WUKPG who made a considerable donation;
  • Uncommon and their clients for collecting and sourcing loads of eggs;
  • Also our friends at Downing LLP, TritonExec, BRE Group, ICAB, Koda Staff, Totes, Fitzgerald House and Handyman Ltd for their kind donations.

Happy Easter to you all!

ICBC Standard Bank

ICBC partnership farewell

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Last week we said a fond farewell to our charity partner for the past five years, ICBC Standard Bank plc.

During this time, ICBC have raised an incredible £90,000 for Spread a Smile through a range of activities and initiatives including challenge events, beehive tours, quiz nights, bake sales, raffles, cricket events and generous donations.

Wenbin Wang, ICBC CEO and Vanessa Crocker, Co-Foudner Spread a SmileOur partnership with ICBC has truly been a catalyst for growth and change at Spread a Smile and we are extremely grateful and proud of everything we have achieved together. Their energy and commitment has been amazing and we were delighted to join the team at ICBC for a farewell event last week to show the difference they have helped make.

“We would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to all of our friends at ICBC for going the extra mile to help spread smiles to seriously ill children and young people. Thanks to your hard work, support and generosity, you’ve helped us to reach more families and bring even more joy and happiness into the lives of families during some of their darkest times. Thank you.” Lucy Jackson, Spread a Smile CEO.


Please do get in touch with the team at to find out how you or your company could support Spread a Smile. Thank you.


Partner Focus – UCLH

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Spread a Smile has been supporting and working with UCLH (University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust) for nearly 10 years through regular in person visits, online sessions, treat drops and much more.

The Royal National ENT and Eastman Dental Hospitals, is one of UCLH’s specialist hospitals, with the Paediatric Dentistry Unit sees complex patients for whom a typical dental visit in primary care would be difficult. Since November 2022 in partnership with the hospital we have been trialing the use of therapy dogs to provide support for patients visiting the Unit to help reduce anxiety and stress.

We spoke to Paul Ashley, Professor/Honorary Consultant, Paediatric Dentistry about how this exciting new initiative is providing invaluable support for patients who would otherwise find a visit to the unit particularly challenging.

What was the reasoning behind involving Spread a Smile at the Paediatric Dentistry Unit?

“I was a committee member on the NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guidance – ‘Babies, children and young people’s experience of healthcare’. It was clear from some of the focus group work carried out with children that therapy animals were really important to them. So, following this feedback, I decided to work with Spread a Smile to see how therapy dogs could help in our Unit.”

How does the initiative work practically?

UCLH - Patient with Thomas“The Spread a Smile team currently work with the families to help reduce stress and worry whilst they are waiting in the waiting room before a procedure. When the patient arrives, they are met by Thomas or Harry, one of the Spread a Smile’s Therapy Dogs, along with one of the Spread a Smile Entertainers. They stay with the patient in the waiting room, building up a rapport. They might sing or talk together and the therapy dog provides a soothing distraction for the child as they stroke their fur and pet them. It helps to calm the patient (and any family members) and reduce anxiety in the lead up to the procedure they are there for. “In the longer term we would like the Spread a Smile team to also then follow patients through into the treatment area to continue to support the child whilst any dental procedures are taking place.”

How have Spread a Smile helped to make a positive difference for patients?

“In general, the ‘vibe’ in the waiting room is lovely when we have the Spread a Smile team here. Everyone looks forward to their visits – staff as well as patients. They help provide a calmer, more fun environment which can only be of benefit to the patients and their families. The therapy dogs are a welcome distraction.”

Generally Spread a Smile supports our delivery of high-quality care for our patients, improving the experience for both patient and dentist.”

Please help us continue our vital work spreading smiles to children in hospital by donating today. Thank you. 

Zara Therapy Dog

Welcome Zara the Therapy Dog

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We’d like to welcome German Shepherd Zara and her owner Louise Jacobs as the newest members of our Therapy Dog team!

Louise and ZaraAs one of our Trustees, Louise knows first-hand how amazing our therapy dogs are. We’re delighted that both Louise and 7-year-old Zara will be joining us to help spread even more smiles to seriously ill children and young people across our hospital and hospice partners.

Louise spoke to us about Zara, how she became a Therapy Dog and their first visit to University College London Hospital (UCLH).

“Zara is quite a large dog, but her temperament is so lovely – very peaceful and calm. She is very docile and enjoys sitting or lying down rather than standing which makes it much easier for patients when meeting her. She doesn’t mind being brushed or stroked and is very happy to be given treats. I think she particularly likes children and young people and can sense when someone is feeling sad or vulnerable.”

“Our first visit for Spread a Smile was to children and young people at the Proton Beam Therapy Centre and paediatric ward at UCLH. We met in-patients and several children who were visiting for treatment on the day. We joined children in the play areas and some patients stopped to say ‘hello’ to Zara as they were leaving after their appointments.

“We were led by the patients, what they needed and how they wanted to be with Zara. Some wanted to sit down with her and just say hello by giving her a stroke. Some wanted to brush her or give her treats. Some children were a little nervous to start with, but when they saw other children spend time with Zara and saw how gentle she is, they would tentatively approach to say hello and before long, they would be firm friends.

“Zara reacted so well and calmly to all of the children she met. Sometimes she would lift her head or wag her tail and sometimes she would just sit or lie still, enjoying the attention. Naturally she would get more excited when a treat was coming her way! She likes to be stroked just beneath her ear and everyone really enjoyed doing that as Zara purrs with happiness – it was so lovely to watch! 

“All of the patients seemed to really enjoy spending time with Zara. Even if they were a bit nervous touching her, I would give them the hairbrush and the nerves would disappear. It was so lovely to see the calming effect meeting Zara had. It was a great distraction, particularly for those who were waiting for treatment and perhaps a little anxious or worried. I had Zara’s water bottle with me and some of the patients were quite intrigued as to how it worked and the fact that she could drink her water carefully without making a mess at all!

“It is wonderful to be part of the Spread a Smile team and I feel so proud of Zara and the difference she made and will continue to make to some of the seriously ill children we support. To see the smiles and moments of relief was truly moving and we’re looking forward to many more visits in the future.”

Riding House Cafes

Riding House Restaurants

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We are hugely grateful to our friends at Riding House Restaurants for raising an incredible £21,000 since the start of our partnership in January 2022.

They have raised this amazing amount by adding 25p to the bill of every diner and will be continuing their support on an ongoing basis.

Together, we also host regular tea parties at their restaurants for the families we support, helping to provide respite and moments of relaxation and enjoyment in amongst the pressures of hospitals and treatment for serious illness.

Riding House Cafes

“The money raised by Riding House Café will have a huge impact on our work, helping us reach even more seriously ill children and young people in hospital. We can’t thank Riding House Café and their customers enough for their generosity, commitment and support for us and our families. Together, we will be able to spread thousands of smiles.” Lucy Jackson, CEO, Spread a Smile

Jane Moore from Riding House Café said: “We are so proud to support Spread a Smile and it’s wonderful to know that we can make a difference to seriously ill children and young people. We’re looking forward to doing even more together in 2023.”

We are looking forward to continuing our partnership into 2023 and a huge thank you again to everyone at Riding House Café for their support.

Spring Finance Limited

Spring Finance – Partnership launch

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We are delighted to announce that we have become the official charity partner for specialist finance lender, Spring Finance Limited. To kick start the partnership, they have come on board as headline sponsor for our Gala Dinner on 24 April 2023.

This year, at our Gala Dinner, we will celebrate 10 years of Spread a Smile, with the dinner taking place at the prestigious Nobu Hotel London Portman Square. It is the perfect year for Spring Finance to join us and we are looking forward to welcoming them for what looks set to be a very special evening, bringing together our wonderful patrons, partners and supporters for a magical evening, with opportunities to learn more about the impact of Spread a Smile’s work.

Lucy Jackson, Chief Executive at Spread a Smile said: “I would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to Spring Finance for their support. We are so looking forward to working with them, getting to know the team and together spreading smiles to seriously ill children in hospital.”  

Gavin Diamon, CEO, Spring Finance LimitedGavin Diamond, CEO of Spring Finance said: “We are proud to be associated with this special charity that makes a real difference to thousands of seriously ill children and their families in hospitals every year. We are hopeful that our partnership will allow them to reach an increasing number of children and we look forward to supporting them with both fundraising and volunteers.”


In addition to Spring Finance’s generous support of the dinner, throughout the year we will be working together to raise funds for Spread a Smile through events, challenges and lots more.

B&C Awards 2023

B&C Awards 2023

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We are delighted to announce that Spread a Smile has been chosen as this year’s charity partner at the B&C Awards 2023, thanks to support from Medianett Publishing and Spring Finance.

The Awards are open to companies and individuals from the specialist finance market, competing for 30 awards in total. This year’s event will take place at the prestigious Hurlingham Club, London on Thursday 21 September and looks set to be a brilliant evening, not least because this year’s theme is Rio de Janeiro Carnival — The Summer Spectacle.

Lucy Jackson our CEO said: “Spread a Smile is delighted to have been chosen as charity partner for the B&C Awards 2023. We’re looking forward to an amazing evening and a great opportunity for us to share our vital work with a wider audience. We’re extremely grateful to Medianett Publishing for helping us to spread even more smiles to seriously ill children and young people in hospital.”

Beth Fisher, Managing Director at Medianett Publishing said: “After hearing the stories about the amazing work they do for thousands of children with acute or chronic conditions every year, we were delighted to partner with Spread a Smile at the 2023 B&C Awards.

“We know how generous the specialist finance industry is when it comes to charitable initiatives, and therefore what better place to raise awareness and money for a brilliant cause than at our event.

“The charity will also be organising for some of its magicians to attend the Awards and provide close-up magic to table holders. Hopefully they can make large donations appear from our kind guests!”

Andrew Bloom, owner of Spring Finance — who holds the charity close to his heart and recommended them as this year’s Awards partner — commented: “Spread A Smile is a truly special charity; what could be purer than bringing joy and laughter to a seriously ill child. In 2023, their entertainers will visit dozens of hospitals nationwide spreading smiles to thousands of children. I am delighted to be part of an industry that supports charities like these.”

Our thanks go to Spring Finance and Medianett Publishing for their wonderful support.

Noah's Ark Children's Hospice - Partner Focus

Partner Focus – Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice

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Alongside our 25 NHS hospital partners, Spread a Smile provides support to two children’s hospices, one of which is Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice.

The hospice supports over 350 children and their families every year, helping children with life-threatening and life-limiting conditions, and their families, make the most of every day.

Spread a Smile has been supporting Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice and their families since 2019, initially through weekly virtual sessions during Covid 19 and now supporting their family events and activities in person, alongside treat drops and bespoke end of life visits.

Laura Walter, Director of Services for Spread a Smile said: “For families with a seriously ill child, the support of different healthcare settings alongside or beyond the hospital setting is often vital, particularly over longer periods of time. It is therefore important for Spread a Smile to be able to reach these children at every stage of their journey and we’re proud to be working with Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice to do just that.”

Last weekend, our team also joined in with their Family Day which saw around 60 families attend the hospice for a magic-themed day of fun family activities. Spread a Smile’s Fairy Kirsten, Mr Magic, singer Tasha and Olivia with Therapy Dog Thomas all spent a wonderful day helping to entertain and spread some joy and laughter.

Tash Whitehead, Marketing and Communications Manager for Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice said:

Mr Magic“Last weekend we hosted one of our Family Days – an opportunity for all of our families to come together for a day of fun, magic and excitement. With so many families in attendance it’s so important that we pull out all the stops to provide a truly unforgettable experience.

“Having Spread a Smile join us really takes the day to a whole new level. Within minutes of arriving, the children were dazzled by the magician, mesmerised by the enchanting fairy and cuddled by their Therapy Dog, Thomas!

“The impact that our partnership with Spread a Smile has on the children and families we support extends beyond days like this. Only last month, we called on Spread a Smile as we were caring for a child at the end of their life. As a team, we wanted to create a moment of magic for the entire family, including the child’s older sibling. Within hours the Spread a Smile fairy arrived at the doors of The Ark, creating a wonderful moment for the siblings to experience together.”

Please consider making a donation to help us continue our vital work. Thank you.

Suzi Ruffell and Dinesh Nathan visit

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Yesterday we were delighted to welcome our Ambassador and Comedian Suzi Ruffell, along with fellow Comedian Dinesh Nathan on one of our visits to University College London Hospital (UCLH).

Suzi and Dinesh joined us to meet teenagers receiving treatment in the oncology inpatient and outpatient units and to find out more about how Spread a Smile work with our hospital partners to support the seriously ill children and young people in their care.

They joined the Spread a Smile team – our Magician Nick, and one of our Entertainers, Rosie – to help spread a little bit of joy and laughter and provide some distraction and fun to the young people they met.

Spread a Smile Ambassador Suzi Ruffell said: “Laughter has an incredible way of lifting spirits and helping people escape from day to day realities – even if it’s just for a short time. I’m proud to be an Ambassador for Spread a Smile and feel even more proud every time I get the opportunity to join them in hospital and meet some of the incredible young people that they help support.”

Dinesh said: ‘It was brilliant to join Spread a Smile in hospital yesterday to see what they do first hand and meet some of the teenagers they support. It was easy to see the difference they make to these young people who are going through some really difficult times. It was great to be involved and help in some way. I’ll definitely be back!’

Thank you to both Suzi and Dinesh for their support and for helping us to spread even more smiles to some of our families.

Please join Suzi and Dinesh and support our vital work spreading smiles to young people in hospital by donating today. Thank you.