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Susie

Rennie Grove Peace Hospice – New partner

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Spread a Smile today announces its newest hospice partner, Rennie Grove Peace Hospice Care, which provides specialist support for children with life-limiting illness and their families across Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

The Spread a Smile team of talented entertainers, including musicians, artists and therapy dogs, will support events for the children and their families at Rennie Grove Peace, spending quality time with patients and helping to spread smiles through music, magic, singing and more.

Children and young people supported by Rennie Grove Peace will also be able to join in with fun and exciting experiences and seasonal Spread a Smile initiatives such as Christmas activities and treat drops, all with the aim of spreading smiles and a lot of happiness to children undergoing treatment and care for serious illness, alongside their families.

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.  Rennie Grove Peace joins four 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.

Karen Raney-Marr, Play Specialist at Rennie Grove Peace Hospice Care, says: “We’re delighted to be partnering with Spread a Smile to bring new and exciting experiences to our young patients and families. The importance of play in supporting young patients with a life-limiting diagnosis can’t be overstated.  Allowing children and families to connect through play and make precious memories can make a huge difference and is something we focus on with the young people we support. We look forward to working with Spread a Smile to continue and grow this work in Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire.”

Laura Walter, Spread a Smile Director of Services added, “Rennie Grove Peace is a very special charity and we are delighted to be working with their wonderful team to help bring some joy and laughter to the children and families. Earlier this month Spread a Smile entertainers, Sar with her guitar and Fairy Francesca, visited the hospice to meet some of the children and their families, helping to spread smiles with singing, music and bubbles. 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 in NHS hospitals and hospices across the country, please click here.

Mental Health Awareness Week 2024

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Today marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Week (13 to 19 May), which each year aims to highlight the importance of our mental health and what we can do to support it.

For children and young people diagnosed with a serious illness, life changes in an instant with family life, schooling, social opportunities, health and wellbeing all being affected. Spending long periods of time in hospital undergoing treatment, away from family and friends can take it’s toll physically and mentally.

Spread a Smile supports our NHS hospital and hospice partners, providing entertainment, distraction and an the opportunity for children and young people in hospital to find fun and laughter in amongst it all.

Eleanor Tyrrell is Matron for Children and Young People’s Cancer Services at UCLH and we spoke to her about the role of Spread a Smile and how we are helping support the wellbeing of patients and their families.

“At UCLH there is a paediatric cancer ward, teenage cancer unit and a teenage and young adult daycare ambulatory cancer unit. One of the most vital areas of my role is ensuring the patient experience is as positive, calm and stress-free as possible.

“I first met Spread a Smile when I was Ward Sister on Lion Ward at Great Ormond Street Hospital in 2013. Josephine’s nephew was treated on Lion Ward and this is when she first discussed the idea of what became the beginnings of Spread a Smile. Josephine and Vanessa were passionate about making the hospital experience fun, cheerful and distracting for the child and diverting attention for the whole family away from the extremely stressful and difficult time.

“We all love seeing the wonderful influence Spread a Smile has on our patients, their families and friends. The patient experience is vital in the care we provide and seeing Spread a Smile boost children in hospital and change difficult moments into something joyous is very special.

“The positive impact of transforming a child’s and family’s hospital journey and supporting their emotional wellbeing cannot be underestimated. Spread a Smile demonstrates and values the importance of being fully inclusive to the young person’s family, carers, siblings and friends, which strengthens relationships and wellbeing. The team create special memories, experiences and opportunities for children and young people in hospital. Without this the child or young person’s hospital stay is extremely stressful and challenging.

“It is inspiring and rewarding to see how the charity has evolved. It can’t be underestimated how much Spread a Smile has impacted children and young people, their friends and families throughout England during their hospital stay. I have many memories of the talented team (including the therapy dogs) who have made our patients very happy, brightened their day and made them smile. I also have memories of the early days and seeing the hard work Josephine and Vanessa undertook to make their goals a success. They and the team should be really proud of what they have achieved and what they plan to achieve.”

Spread a Smile is proud to work with and support inspiring people like Eleanor and their teams. We currently work in partnership with 32 NHS hospitals and four hospice partners, spreading smiles when they are needed most. To support our work, please consider donating today. Thank you.

Comedy Night returns for a night to remember

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What a night at the Spread a Smile Comedy Night at The Comedy Store, London earlier this week!

Generously sponsored by Canary Wharf Contractors and Texel Foundation, the event was curated and hosted by Spread a Smile Ambassador, Suzi Ruffell, who had the audience laughing right from the start before introducing a brilliant line up featuring Sindhu Vee, Amy Annette, Sara Barron, Josh Widdicombe and Iain Stirling.

Lucy Jackson, Spread a Smile Chief Executive took to the stage before the interval to talk about the difference our guests were making to the seriously ill children we support, sharing a film featuring some of the young people the charity has met and helped over the years.

Talking about the event, Lucy said, “The Spread a Smile Comedy Nights are a chance to welcome supporters and new guests for a fun evening full of laughter, whilst also sharing the importance of our work. We are so grateful to Suzi who is an incredible Ambassador, curating such a successful evening and giving so much time and energy to support the charity. Also to Iain, Josh, Sindhu, Amy and Sarah for generously giving up their time and sharing their undisputable talents with us. It was such a fun evening and we’re looking forward to the next one already.”

Thousands of pounds were raised on the night to support Spread a Smile’s work spreading joy and laughter to seriously ill children and their families and our thanks go to everyone who joined us, The Comedy Store for hosting and our amazing sponsors, Canary Wharf Contractors and Texel Foundation. Also to the team of hard working volunteers from L.E.K Consulting who helped ensure the event ran smoothly.

Save the date! Our next Comedy Night will take place on Monday 4 November at The Comedy Store, so make sure you’re signed up to our e-newsletter to be the first to hear when tickets go on sale.

Providing respite in the magic of Frozen

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Alongside in-person and virtual entertainer visits to seriously ill children in hospital, Spread a Smile organises a variety of outings and events for the families we support.

Our aim is to provide special days out for the whole family so they can enjoy themselves together. Last week we took 17 children and their siblings and parents to watch Frozen on stage at the Drury Lane Theatre in London.

As always, Spread a Smile created a wonderful, welcoming environment and pre-show party with magic, face painting, art and a sprinkle of fairy magic. Our guests were also treated to pizza, snacks and delicious cupcakes donated by our friends at Lola’s Cupcakes.

After the show, the incredible actors playing Elsa, Ana and Kristoff came out to meet the families, helping to spread even more smiles and magic. It really was a wonderful day.

“Kian and I had the most amazing day. Kian hasn’t stopped telling anyone who will listen about the brilliant spread a smile team, the show and meeting his favourite Disney princesses.

“The whole team were fantastic and we just wanted to pass on our thanks to you all. I believe Kian’s exact words were ‘I’m the luckiest kid in the world’.” Danielle and Kian

We are so grateful to everyone who helps make these events possible; our donors, fundraisers and supporters, Lola’s Cupcakes, the amazing cast and crew of Frozen and the Drury Lane Theatre and Disney UK.

To find out more about our work and accessing our services, click here.

Spread a Smile Co-Founders receive their MBEs

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Earlier this week, Spread a Smile’s amazing Co-Founders, Josephine Segal and Vanessa Crocker visited Buckingham Palace to receive their MBE awards. They were presented with them by Anne, Princess Royal, having been awarded them for services to seriously and terminally ill children and their families in The King’s 2024 New Year Honours.

Josephine and Vanessa started Spread a Smile 11 years ago, after seeing the positive impact a magician’s visit had on Josephine’s 9-year-old nephew, Aaron, whilst he was having cancer treatment in Great Ormond Street Hospital. Since then, the charity has grown significantly and is now the country’s leading provider of hospital entertainment for children and teenagers. Both remain actively involved, working closely with the team of Spread a Smile entertainers, making regular visits to children in hospital and joining family events.

Josephine and Vanessa said, “We are so proud to have accepted our MBEs on behalf of

the team at Spread a Smile who make our work possible and on behalf of all the incredible and inspirational children and families we have met over the years.

“Visiting Buckingham Palace was an experience we will never forget, made even more special doing it alongside our own families, who have been a constant source of support and motivation over the years. 

“It was a wonderful opportunity to be able to tell Princess Anne about our work, why we started the charity and why what we do is so important.

“We believe deeply in the work of Spread a Smile and we promise to continue to do everything we can to spread smiles, laughter and positive memories when they are needed the most.”

Lucy Jackson, Chief Executive at Spread a Smile said, “I feel truly honoured to work alongside two such inspirational women. Nothing is too much trouble for Josephine and Vanessa. They exude kindness and compassion and are completely committed to spreading smiles and bringing love and comfort into the lives of seriously ill children and their families. I am so incredibly proud of them and can’t think of two people more deserving of this honour.”

Read on to find out more about Spread a Smile, how we are making a difference to the families we support and how you can get involved.

FLOWERBX afternoon tea at Corinthia London

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Spread a Smile is delighted to be the beneficiary charity of an exciting collaboration between FLOWERBX and our partners, Corinthia London.

Whitney Bromberg Hawkings, founder and CEO of FLOWERBX, and Corinthia London’s executive pastry chef Yago Doamo have paired their creative skills and devised a selection of strikingly beautiful desserts which will mark the Chelsea Flower Show and celebrate the approach of Summer.

The distinctive and delicious desserts have been inspired by Whitney and the stunning flower range at the FLOWERBX in-house shop at Corinthia London. They combine individual, visually impactful floral motifs with seasonal spring-into-summer ingredients, such as strawberries and blueberries, lavender and lemon, chocolate and salted caramel.

Alongside a selection of finger sandwiches, tea blends and other treats, the desserts will form part of the afternoon tea service at Corinthia London in the Crystal Moon Lounge from 2 May-29 May 2024, with £10 from every tea being donated to Spread a Smile.

To further mark the season’s floral theme at Corinthia London, FLOWERBX have created dazzling large paper flowers to adorn the Crystal Moon Lounge and the Foyer of the hotel. This impressive floral installation will feature delicate colourful paper flowers, and there will also be a large floral tree in the Foyer adorned with the striking individual flowers which can be purchased to take away, with the proceeds donated to the Spread a Smile.

Lucy Jackson, Chief Executive of Spread a Smile, said “We are so grateful to our friends at Corinthia London and FLOWERBX for their incredible support. We are honoured to be part of this amazing collaboration. We would like to say thank you to everyone involved for creating and supporting this wonderful initiative which will help us spread even more smiles to seriously ill children and their families.”

To find out more about afternoon tea at the Corinthia London please visit their website here.

Families join us for special LEGO workshops

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Earlier this month we hosted two very special LEGO® workshops for some of the children, young people and families we support.

We were joined by our friends from the LEGO Group for specially crafted sessions, with lots of different activities and building projects using LEGO and DUPLO bricks for our guests to enjoy.

As always, Spread a Smile entertainers joined in the fun with magic, face painting and smiles from Fairy Joanna.

Nearly 30 children and their parents/carers came along, and we are so grateful to the LEGO Group for their continued support and creativity in helping to spread smiles to the families we support.

“Thank you to all the team including the extended LEGO team and performers for the wonderful morning at the LEGO event. You all went to so much effort and Eva had a wonderful time with Joanne the Fairy and Nick the magician.” Claire. Eva’s Mum

Spread a Smile’s outings, events and activities aim to support young patients, their parents, carers and siblings and bring moments of respite, joyful experiences and enduring memories at the most challenging of times. They include workshops such as this, alongside theatre trips, tea parties, annual events and much more.

If you or your company would like to chat about how you can get involved with Spread a Smile and support our vital work, please email us at fundraising@spreadasmile.org

London Marathon success

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Nine amazing runners joined Team Smile for the TCS London Marathon this year.

Andy, Carly, Charlotte, Dawn, Jake, Jemma, Marcus and Martin all took on this incredible challenge in aid of Spread a Smile, together raising over £30,000 to help us spread smiles to seriously ill children and their families.

“I just wanted to say thank you so much for your support and for the opportunity to run. It was such an incredible experience, and the atmosphere was amazing.” Marcus Godfrey, Team Smile runner

The London Marathon is one of the world’s most popular marathons, covering 26.2 miles around the streets of our beautiful capital city, taking in London’s best landmarks including Buckingham Palace, The Cutty Sark, Tower Bridge and Canary Wharf.

Spread a Smile was delighted to be there on the day, in partnership with Children with Cancer UK, to cheer our teams on along the route. With 50,000 runners in total, the experience was one not to be forgotten and everyone at Spread a Smile felt proud to support such a dedicated team of runners.

Lucy Jackson, Spread a Smile Chief Executive said, “By taking on the London Marathon, Team Smile truly went the extra mile in support of Spread a Smile. We loved cheering them on and were delighted to welcome them to a special post-race party with our friends from Children with Cancer UK, where we celebrated their achievements with entertainment, magic and games for the families. We can’t wait for next year and a huge thank you to all of our amazing runners for their hard work and commitment and for raising so much to spread smiles when they are needed most.”

To find out more about our upcoming events and joining Team Smile, please click here or email Rimi at rimi@spreadasmile.org

Celebrating Spread a Smile’s 11th birthday at GOSH

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On Thursday 11 April Spread a Smile celebrated our 11th birthday with a very special event in the Lagoon Canteen at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH).

We were joined by nearly 100 people including inpatients, outpatients, family members and hospital staff for fun art activities run by our artist Abi, entertainment from Mr Magic, poetry from Judge the poet and a little bit of fairy magic from Fairy Jude. Our Co-Founder Josephine and her therapy dog Buddy also joined us to help spread even more smiles. There was also a quieter space for one-to-one chats and colouring.

It was a wonderful morning and a chance for us to engage with so many people in the hospital where our work began 11 years ago.  To add to the celebrations, our friends from Lola’s Cupcakes also provided some delicious cupcakes for us to share with our guests. We were also joined by two lovely volunteers from our partners, Corinthia London.

Laura Walter, Spread a Smile’s Director of Services said, “It felt incredibly special to be at Great Ormond Street Hospital to celebrate our birthday with patients, families and staff alike. We feel honoured to continue our wonderful partnership with GOSH and to have the opportunity to be there for children under their care and support the amazing hospital teams.”

Spread a Smile’s partnership with GOSH dates back to when Josephine Segal and Vanessa Crocker founded Spread a Smile 11 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.

Today we are proud to visit the hospital twice a week and every other week on a Monday, providing support across all inpatient 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.

To find out more about our work supporting hospitals such as Great Ormond Street Hospital, please click here. Please donate to help us ensure we can continue to be there when it’s needed most. Thank you.

Amazing line-up for Spread a Smile Comedy Night

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For 2024 the extremely popular Spread a Smile Comedy Night, hosted and curated by the charity’s Ambassador Suzi Ruffell, will return on Tuesday 7 May to The Comedy Store, London.

Generously sponsored by Canary Wharf Contractors and Texel Foundation, the event features a brilliant line up of famously funny faces including Josh Widdicombe, Iain Stirling, Sara Barron, Sindhu Vee and Amy Annette.

“As a Spread a Smile Ambassador, I’m proud to do what I can to support the charity’s brilliant work spreading smiles to seriously ill children and young people and I’ve seen first hand the difference they make. I’m excited to be hosting another exciting Comedy Night at The Comedy Store to help raise vital funds to support Spread a Smile’s work. I’ll once again be joined by some legends of comedy to spread some smiles and raise as much as possible on the night for a very worthwhile cause. We hope you’ll join us!” Suzi Ruffell

Last year’s Comedy Night was a huge success with 400 guests joining us for an incredible night of stand-up comedy. Tickets are on sale for £28 each from The Comedy Store and are selling out fast.

Get your tickets now!

“We’re so proud to continue to sponsor the Spread a Smile’s Comedy Night each year. It’s set to be another great evening and we’re pleased to be able to support it and the brilliant work the charity does spreading smiles to seriously ill children.” Alec Vallintine, Managing Director – Construction at Canary Wharf Group.

As always a huge thank you to Suzi for generously giving up her time and curating such a wonderful initiative and to all of her fellow comedians. All proceeds will support Spread a Smile’s work spreading joy and laughter to seriously ill children in hospitals across the UK.

Save the date! Our second Comedy Night will take place on Monday 4 November also at The Comedy Store.