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Corinthia London

Corinthia London supports Spread a Smile

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Today sees the launch of an incredible new partnership with Corinthia London, one of the top luxury hotels in the heart of London.

Earlier this month, our Chief Executive Lucy Jackson was delighted to visit the Corinthia team to talk more about how we will be working together to develop the first charity partnership for this wonderful hotel.

Lucy Jackson Spread a Smile Chief Executive said, “This is an incredibly exciting partnership for Spread a Smile. We are honoured and delighted to be working with Corinthia London. Their support will enable us to uplift lives and spread many smiles to seriously ill children in hospital and their families. Both Spread a Smile and Corinthia London place a real emphasis on creating a unique family-feel throughout our work, injecting energy and positivity into everything we do and I know these shared values will make this an incredibly meaningful and special partnership. I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone at Corinthia London for their enthusiasm and support and I’m so looking forward to getting started with all the exciting and creative ideas we have.”

The Corinthia team will be supporting Spread a Smile through a range of activities and events going forward to help raise vital funds and awareness for our work bringing joy and laughter into the lives of seriously ill children and young people.

Thomas Kochs, Managing Director of Corinthia London said, “When we were first introduced to Spread a Smile and met their incredible team, we immediately recognised how rare and meaningful their work is and the impact Spread a Smile has on the lives of the children and families they touch. As a team at Corinthia London, we felt that this will be the perfect partnership and charity for us to support.”

Thank you to our friends at Corinthia London and watch this space for how this fantastic partnership develops.

10 years partnership with GOSH

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Spread a Smile’s partnership with Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) dates back to when Josephine Segal and Vanessa Crocker founded Spread a Smile 10 years ago.

In 2013, Josephine’s young nephew, Aaron, was receiving treatment at GOSH. After noticing that Aaron was becoming increasingly withdrawn, she arranged for a magician to visit. It had the most remarkable effect: Aaron’s spirits were lifted and his treatment became more bearable.

As a result, Aaron asked if magicians could also visit friends that he’d met on the ward and Josephine promised Aaron she would find a way to make it happen.  Josephine teamed up with friend and former colleague Vanessa Crocker and working closely with GOSH, they founded Spread a Smile.

Since then, the Spread a Smile has continued to work closely with the team at GOSH to spread smiles to their patients, providing regular in person entertainer visits, online sessions, treat drops and much more.

Spread a Smile Sensory Boxes

Today we are proud to visit the hospital twice a week providing support across all in patient wards including the three paediatric intensive care units at the hospital: Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU), Paediatric Intensive Care (PICU) and Cardiac Intensive Care (CICU) as well as other wards such as oncology day care, outpatients and pre-op.

We spoke to Jamie Wilcox, Head of Volunteer Services at GOSH about our important work supporting children and young people under the GOSH’s care.

“As the Trust lead for volunteering and visiting organisations, patient parties and other entertainment, the inspirational co-founders of Spread a Smile, Josephine and Vanessa, came to meet me back in the early days of the organisation’s life.

“Over the past 10 years I have watched a small and highly passionate team of volunteers create and grow an idea into a large, fully-staffed, well-governed, slick charity, serving a number of hospitals and providing a much-needed service.

“I can’t tell you how many times GOSH staff have commented on how important it has been to have weekly visits from highly skilled professional entertainers. Not only does it have a direct impact on the patients and families, but having entertainers in the hospital brightens the wards, lifts staff spirits, helps them with anxious patients and gives them an opportunity to smile.

Spread a Smile Team at GOSH over Christmas

“We have seen how Spread a Smile entertainers can relax a patient, help them feel that little bit better on a tough day, be a wonderful distraction from a procedure or being in pain. The entertainers spend considerable 

time with each patient, adapting to their needs and expectations – whether that be a quiet song with some fairies, an upbeat interactive performance from a magician, doing face painting, or delivering a special poem created right there on the spot. This wonderful organisation has such a diverse and varied depth of talent it can accommodate any patient of any age and help take them away from the clinical environment for a moment of their day.

“There is no other organisation in the hospital that provides a service so professionally and regularly. We are proud to have it as one of our key partners.”

10 years of spreading smiles

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10 years ago today, Josephine Segal and Vanessa Crocker co-founded Spread a Smile, and what a 10 years it’s been!

We have grown considerably since we started spreading smiles in our first hospital, Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), and today we work in partnership with 25 NHS hospitals and 2 hospices across the UK. We are extremely proud to work alongside and provide important support to the incredible teams who care for seriously ill children and young people on a daily basis.

“Every time we hear a child we are caring for giggle and laugh along with the Spread a Smile entertainers, it is huge. Knowing that for a brief period they can just be children brings a smile to our faces and it makes the tough times that bit easier.” Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialists, Miriam Sager and Tenneh Koroma, Northwick Park Hospital

The families we support are at the heart of everything we do. During 2022/23, we visited over 8,500 hospital bedsides and made over 1,800 virtual visits, spreading smiles and laughter to many thousands of patients, their siblings and family members.

“We appreciate you so, so much. In hospital, out of hospital, at home, via zoom, for siblings and through lockdown. I really don’t know what my children would’ve done without you – making cakes, paintings and magic shows. You are a real true blessing. The summer party this year was a first out of hospital and I still talk about it to this day!” Parent

As we head into 2023/24, our aim is to reach even more children in even more hospitals across the country, expanding our reach and spreading smiles where they are needed most. We couldn’t do that without our entertainers, service and support team, fundraisers, trustees and the amazing donors and organisations who make everything we do possible.

“Thank you to everyone who has been there for Spread a Smile and the families we support over the last 10 years, helping us to grow, develop and bring so much joy during some of the darkest times. We couldn’t have done it without our dedicated office team, our wonderfully talented entertainers, our brilliant trustees and of course our generous supporters”.  Lucy Jackson, Spread a Smile Chief Executive

Happy Birthday Spread a Smile and here’s to the next 10 years and beyond!

Meet Magic Nick

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Meet Nick, the Magician, aka ‘Magic Nick’ and our newest recruit to the Spread a Smile team of entertainers.

Nick became interested in magic from a young age, sharing his natural talent for all things magic with family and friends at every opportunity. He is now a full-time Magician and we spoke to Nick about why he decided to use his skills to help spread smiles to some of the seriously ill children and young people we support.

“My journey with Spread a Smile started because of a personal connection. I have two nephews, both of whom spend time in and out of hospital, including Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH).

“It was my youngest nephew’s second birthday during one hospital visit to GOSH and knowing this, one of the nurses arranged for a virtual visit with a Spread a Smile Fairy. The session was like pure magic. For 30 minutes, the clinical hospital room felt like a space in which we could celebrate. The sounds of the machines faded into the background and instead the room was filled with songs, cheer and most importantly, laughter.

“Not long after that Spread a Smile visited my nephew in person, and I was delighted to see it was a magician who came to visit. My nephew absolutely loved it and so did his older brother.

“For the boys’ Mum, it was a welcome change from the medical side of hospital. Seeing your child unwell is difficult for any parent and as their Uncle, I found it extremely challenging. You feel helpless. So when someone like Spread a Smile visits whose only job is to bring joy and laughter, it is incredible. You can escape, even if it’s just for a short time and you’re reminded how to be a child again.

“From that moment I knew I had to get involved with Spread a Smile as a Magician and I am so proud to now have the opportunity to join the team and go into hospitals to help make children laugh when they really need it. It is some of the most rewarding work I have ever done – leaving a visit and hearing the heartfelt thanks from a parent, guardian or the child themselves. There is nothing like it and I feel privileged to be able to help in some way.”

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

A special Easter Tea Party

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Thank you SO much for the amazing Easter Tea Party. We had the most amazing time, meeting all the animals and taking part in all the different activities. The first thing my daughter wanted to do when she woke up this morning was put her fairy wings back on, and she was excited to explain to the nurse taking her obs why she was quite so glittery!”

What a wonderful Easter Tea Party we had this week at the beautiful Riding House Café in Bloomsbury. We were joined by 52 children, young people, their siblings and family members and enjoyed a gorgeous afternoon of Easter fun including easter themed arts and crafts, fairies, magic, face painting, an easter egg hunt and more!

Our friends from All About Anna’s Animals added to the Spring feel by bringing some of their gorgeous animals for everyone to meet, including hedgehogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets and the biggest hit of the day, the tortoise.

Each year, the Spread a Smile team organises a variety of outings and events for seriously ill children and their families, from our Summer party to afternoon teas, theatre trips, and much more.

These outings bring moments of respite, joyful experiences and enduring memories at the most challenging of times.

“Thank you ALL for the most amazing Easter party! We had the BEST time. I think my youngest hasn’t stopped buzzing with joy and all the fun and loved the animals she got to cuddle. (I did too!) My eldest who has been in hospital for two months wasn’t able to interact but I’m sire he benefited from it all too as it was sensory input from outside his room. I’m just so glad we got to attend because he was meant to have brain surgery last Thursday and have been moved to next week and if it had gone ahead we’d have missed this lovely day. So a huge thanks to all involved.” Amy, Parent

A huge thank you to our families for joining us, to our wonderful volunteers from Spring Finance for volunteering to help on the day, our partners Riding House Restaurants and also Capital Bread.

If you’d like to find out more about our family events, please visit our What’s On page.


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, Little Learners, Chancellor’s School 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.”