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Viv Levene

Smile Tea Party RoundUp

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There was such an overflowing amount of sweet and savoury treats, special teas and super celebrations during October, where incredible people switched on the kettle and hosted their fundraiser on behalf of Spread a Smile. We’ve had an array of photos, videos and donations from tea parties that took place in hospitals, schools, community groups and people’s homes and gardens. We held some fabulous virtual baking classes for children and their siblings during half term week and after school clubs. To end the Tea Party month with a bang, we thought there would be no better way than spreading some smiles with a tea party outing for some of the courageous children and their families who are receiving treatment under NHS care. Our partner Brigit’s Bakery helped us deliver an afternoon of tea, cakes and entertainment on their Peppa Pig Afternoon Tea Bus. 

Thank you to everyone who hosted, volunteered or went to a party on behalf of Spread a Smile. Your time and donations will enable us to deliver more fun outings and entertainment activities like this. This includes celebrities Angela Griffin, Nicola Stephenson and Lisa Faulkner and their families who held a Smile Tea Party at Angela’s home to fundraise for Spread a Smile.

We will be sending out prizes this week to the winners of our free prize draw who won a Hatter’s Tea for Two at the 5-star boutique Egerton House Hotel in Knightsbridge and an Alice in Wonderland Gift Set by artist, Ali Miller.

We loved seeing your photos and hope you all enjoyed your yummy tea.

We also want to thank all the Tea Party partners for this event who made it extra super.

Brigit’s Bakery, Honey and Co, Ali Miller London, Claridges, The Langham London, Rubens Hotel, Lolas Cupcakes and The Egerton House Hotel.


Return of Face to Face Hospital Visits

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The team is so delighted to return to face-to-face visits at some of our NHS hospital partners that we haven’t visited since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Patients have been more isolated than ever before and most professionals they see in the hospital are medical. Face-to-face visits with Spread a Smile entertainers provide an important distraction from treatment and normalise the hospital environment, allowing patients to connect, relax and be children rather than patients.

We were so happy to include a face-to-face hospital visit with our brand new therapy dog, Smartie who visited children at St Mary’s Hospital. We also visited King’s College Hospital and University College Hospital. These interactions will continue in addition to our continuous virtual entertainment.

Laura Walter, Director of Services at Spread a Smile explains below the fantastic impact a furry friend can have on the patients, families and staff on a hospital visit.

“Stroking a dog is extremely therapeutic and helps patients to feel relaxed and calm in the hospital environment. Therapy dog visits are always super popular with patients, parents and staff – giving everyone a much needed lift.” 

If your company would like to support us with more face to face visits you can click on the link here.

11-17 October was Play in Hospital Week which raises awareness of the benefits of play in the treatment of poorly children across the UK.  It is therefore was an important date in our diary too and our programme of play activities for children and teenagers under the care of our NHS partner hospitals included art, singing, dancing and makaton magic.

We received this feedback about our makaton magic session from Ellisa Butcher, Learning Disability Link Senior Play Worker:

“I just wanted to say thank you so much for the magic makaton Zoom. It was absolutely fantastic and so lovely to have a Zoom so accessible and appropriate for some of our patients with additional needs and communication needs.  I know the patients all loved it and found it very engaging. I have also had several comments about how fantastic Daniel was at adapting the session to be appropriate for all patients and engaging them all well.”

The image below is of Smartie the therapy dog who visited children at St Mary’s Hospital with fairy Ellie.

New Entertainers

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By encouraging feedback from our NHS partners, children and their families we continue to develop our services, identify needs and find new talent.

In addition to our fairies, magicians, musicians, artists and poet we can now also offer new ways to spread smiles to children and teenagers in hospital. New options include ventriloquism, music lessons, make up classes, riddles, wellness for teenagers, comedy and we even have a quizmaster who runs hospital sessions for older children and teenagers.

Our new entertainers are a hugely welcome addition to the team and enable us to run 56 individual, ward and hospital sessions each week.

New NHS Hospital Partner in Leicester

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We are delighted to announce that we have a new NHS hospital partner – Leicester Children’s Hospital.

From this month the Spread a Smile team and entertainers will be working with the trust’s Play Specialist Team to provide enhanced play activities and entertainment to children under the hospital’s care.  Activities so far have included virtual entertainer visits and treat drops.

Sally Shepherd, Leicester Children’s Hospital Play Coordinator, said: “As a play team working through the pandemic we have faced huge challenges in the way we work with our children and young people. It has been more important than ever to create positive experiences for our patients and their families. The support that we have received from Spread a Smile to do this has been amazing. 

“The Spread a Smile team arranged sessions that are tailored to the patients’ ages, level of understanding and individual needs and it has been so rewarding to see the positive impact that they have during and after a session. We are so grateful to Spread a Smile for the wonderful work that they do – it has made our job so much easier!”

Rosemarie, Teddy’s mum, said, “The virtual sessions have been an amazing distraction for when Teddy (aged 6) hasn’t had the energy to get out of bed and play with his toys. His treatment has been intense and these sessions have made him smile!”



Marathon Success

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The Virgin Money London Marathon took place on Sunday 3 October. Our Spread Smile runners did amazingly well and we were so proud to be cheering them on such a lovely sunny autumn day.

Jason Finch took part in the London race and Martin Murray, Simon Chandler and Prav Char took part in the virtual race. Henry, Daniel, Finn and Josh also run a marathon relay near their homes in Hertfordshire.

We asked our runners about their preparations for the London Marathon and why they chose to run for Spread a Smile.

When did you start running and why?

JASON: I used to run when I was a teenager, but in those days the choice of running gear was limited, there weren’t as many events or clubs to attend, and the technology wasn’t around for measuring how well you were doing.  I lost interest and didn’t run much until my late 30s/early 40s when I bought a decent pair of trainers and a running watch, and suddenly realised that this was something I could do, and that it would keep me fit as I got older.  Social media made it easier to find out about running events, and having moved home, I used my love for running to meet other people and make new friends.

MARTIN: My little sister, she’s 43 but she’ll always be my little sister! challenged me to run the Edinburgh half Marathon with her in 2014 and I just kept on running.

SIMON: I started running last year, during lockdown. I needed to feel the freedom and having moved to London 2 weeks before Lockdown started it gave me a chance to explore London in a way I might not have without lockdown.

HENRY: I’ve been running all my life  and I do it because I love being outside.

How many marathons have you run in total?

JASON: Well, officially two marathons – my first one was at Chelmsford in 2016 and then I did Edinburgh in 2019.  I also ran one in my back garden during the first lockdown, as part of my fundraising for Spread A Smile during 2020.  Oh, and a few “ultra” marathons – 52 miles in 24 hours, 75 miles over a weekend and most recently, 37 miles in December 2020 when myself and two others spent the day running between 7 of the hospitals that Spread A Smile support.  For me, though, the holy grail has always been the London Marathon, so I’m super excited about being able to do it for the first time.

MARTIN: None, this is my first, I had trained for the Manchester marathon last year but COVID got in the way and so I have been waiting for the next opportunity.

SIMON: I ran my first and what I thought would be my only marathon last year. I ran that one solo, raising money for a hostel I lived/worked at in Guatemala as the Pandemic had ruined tourism and they were left without money income for everyone that worked there.

HENRY: None, but I do cross country for my school and in Aquathon races.

How does running make you feel?

JASON: Whether it’s getting the day off to a good start or clearing my head after a day’s work, I find that the endorphins generated by exercise give me a great lift and a positive frame of mind.  When my legs ache, I remind myself that it’s not a bad thing and even if a run doesn’t go to plan, I remember that I’ve achieved more than if I hadn’t run at all.  During marathon training, I have to be careful not to overdo it, either by running too fast or too often; it’s important to let your muscles heal and the rest of your body recover between runs.

MARTIN: Mainly tired! but it is my way to just turn my head off for a few hours a week, put on a Podcast and just keep putting one foot in front of the other, its so simple.

SIMON: Pain the morning after…. Seriously though, it just gives me freedom to explore. It’s why I hate running the same route on repeat.

HENRY: Healthy and fit.

Have you ever wanted to give up, and how did you manage to push through?

JASON: Some days are definitely harder than others, and often it’s as much about mental strength as physical.  At the start of this year, I committed to running the same 5km run every day throughout January; on the cold days when it was pouring with rain, I had to be very disciplined to keep going but by just focussing on the next run rather than thinking about the whole month, I achieved my target.  In 2009 I did a Mud Race, which was physically the hardest thing I have ever done and I ended up with mild frostbite in my fingers – by comparison, I find running in any weather to be pretty easy.  Sometimes I remember that day, stuck in the mud, and remind myself “it could be worse”.

MARTIN: There have been times that I haven’t wanted to get out of bed early or squeeze a run in before dinner but I have made a commitment to Spread a Smile and to myself that I will run this Marathon so it will be done.

SIMON: Plenty of times. I recently had it whilst on holiday in Split, Croatia. I was doing a 90 minute run, starting at 5:30am as I had big plans that day, I was running up a 250m incline, 30 degrees and just wanted to stop but if I stopped there, all the other early mornings would be worthless.

HENRY: Not really, no!

How are you preparing for London Marathon?

JASON: Quite frantically at the moment!  I was using a training plan, which is designed to cover 16 weeks of training prior to a marathon, but I hit a problem in June when my right hip started hurting after a 9 mile run.  Despite some rest, I couldn’t shrug off the pain until I visited a chiropractor, and after six weeks of virtually no running, I had to build the miles back up carefully.  I’m now back on track but have had to increase the miles I do over a shorter period than I would have liked.  For this marathon, I’ve been thinking more about other aspects as well – such as trying to run in the mornings (similar to the time on race day) and practicing when I eat and drink during long runs.

MARTIN: I am following the same training plan that I used last year but with a few tweeks because training in the summer is a lot harder than the winter. The heat makes the longer runs much harder for me so I have to go a lot slower which can be frustrating.

SIMON: Working with a running coach to give myself training plans for me, hoping to complete it in sub 4 hours!

HENRY: I swim most days and have been running with my Mum and friends.

What’s your top tip for someone new to running and considering taking on a challenge?

JASON: Running can be both a very personal thing, and also a very social one.  By that, I mean that you don’t need anyone else in the same way as you do with team sports etc – you can choose when you run, how far you go and how fast you go.  That last point is important – how quickly you run doesn’t matter, and you should build up your distance, speed and confidence over a long period.  One way to get started is to go along to parkrun events, that take place around the country on Saturday mornings.  I help to organise one of these, and they are free and open to everyone whether you are walking or running.  The distance is 5 km, and over a period of weeks you can see how you are progressing and meet like-minded people who will encourage you to keep going.  If you aren’t very fit, or confident about running, the support of others can make a huge difference.

MARTIN: Get your Gait analysed, and the right trainers for your style of running. they don’t need to be really expensive but getting them right will help you to stay injury free and keep going.

SIMON: Don’t worry about time or distance, just enjoy being out exploring.

HENRY: Keep going. Start with some short runs and build up to longer runs

Why have you chosen to run for Spread a Smile?

JASON: My nephew was born with heart difficulties and spent his five weeks at Great Ormond Street Hospital.  The support that the hospital and charities gave to my sister and brother-in-law at the time was wonderful and inspired us all to look for ways to help those who bring comfort and joy to ill children and their families at such a difficult time.  So when my employers (Masthaven Bank) partnered with Spread a Smile in 2019, this gave me the opportunity to combine my love of running with fundraising for the charity.  I was lucky enough to spend a day with some of the Spread A Smile team on one of their hospital visits in early 2020, and seeing the impact they had made the decision to volunteer for the London Marathon even easier.

MARTIN: Get your Gait analysed, and the right trainers for your style of running. they don’t need to be really expensive but getting them right will help you to stay injury-free and keep going. Get your Gait analysed, and the right trainers for your style of running. they don’t need to be really expensive but getting them right will help you to stay injury-free and keep going.

SIMON: Opticore IT who I work for are affiliated to Spread a Smile so I’ve heard about the work they do and I wanted to help in someway. The last 18 months have been incredibly tough for everyone but just imagining having a seriously or terminally sick child on top of that must be that hardest thing in the world. I just want to do my bit to help.

HENRY: Because my Mum works for them and she told us about all the children they  support. Our friend Oliver was also entertained by a Spread a Smile magician when he was ill in Great Ormond Street.

What makes you smile?

JASON: I think the answer I’m supposed to give here is “my wife and children”…..which is, of course, true, but thinking about the day of the London Marathon, I’m hoping to be smiling when I cross the start line (knowing that I’m finally really doing it), when I see people I know in the crowd (in case they’re taking photos) and – probably the biggest smile – when I cross the finish line.  At that point, it’ll be a combined feeling of relief together with the knowledge that I’ve raised funds for Spread A Smile…. not to mention the thought of some refreshments being not too far away

MARTIN: Fran & Ellibobs, most of the time….

SIMON: Knowing I’m doing good in the world.

HENRY: My friends, my brothers and when my Mum says I can go on the Xbox!

Micro Scooters

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Leading scooter brand, Micro Scooters, has teamed up with children’s charity, Spread a Smile, to spread smiles to seriously ill and hospitalised children. The new partnership will support the brand’s philosophy that ‘small changes can add up to make a big difference’ and will include product donation, support with fundraising events and activities and raising the charity’s awareness to new family audiences.

Young patients on the oncology ward at UCLH were the first to benefit at this week’s partnership launch. Laura Walter, Director of Services at Spread a Smile, said, “Radiotherapy can be very frightening for young patients and whatever we can do to alleviate their anxieties and make children more accepting of treatment is essential to their wellbeing. A number of the children were very nervous before their treatment but to see them scoot into the radiotherapy room and with the promise of further scooting post treatment it made today a more positive experience and proves ‘it’s the micro things that matter most’.”

Ben Gibson, Managing Director at Micro Scooters UK, said “We have been donating scooters to children in hospitals since our business started nearly 15 years ago. Working with the incredible team at Spread a Smile will now allow us to donate more scooters further and wider across the country.  We are in awe of the team at Spread a Smile and are delighted we can help them achieve their ambitions in any way we can”.

#microscooters #entertainmentinhospital #spreadingsmiles

Spreading Smiles in Nottingham

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We’re delighted to announce we are spreading smiles to children and teenagers under the care of our new NHS partner, Nottingham Children’s Hospital.

We run a weekly magic session with the patients there and patients also join in our regular sessions that we run for all of our NHS partner hospitals. Earlier in the summer we sent ice creams to the hospital for the children and teenagers to enjoy.

Jamie-Lee Phillipson, Play Specialist Team Lead, said, “Spread a Smile is an amazing charity, that constantly brings smiles to children’s faces. The work they have done to get all of their virtual sessions up and running has been incredible. It is such a great achievement seeing how they are still able to bring children of all ages so much joy through a screen. It has brought so much fun and laughter to the children and their families. The service they kindly provide for us is invaluable. Thank you for all the amazing work you do.”

Last week, the Play Team ran a Caribbean Party for the patients at the hospital. Spread a Smile entertained at the party with a virtual art session. We’ve loved seeing the amazing pineapple creations that the children made.

August Fundraising Round Up

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This August our amazing supporters have really been pulling out all the stops in aid of  Spread a Smile.

Marc Lester, Garry Crystal and Oliver Bradley literally threw themselves out of a plane in a sponsored skydive; Angel, Rob and Holly Farley, completed a 16-mile sponsored walk and Henry Jackson, Lily Ornstein and their families (including our CEO Lucy Jackson) completed two mountain hikes in the Lake District (280,000 steps, 20km and 824m) as part of the Bnei Mitzvah Charity Challenge.

In addition, 10-year-olds Pearl and Izzy from Barnes set up a stall selling lavender bags to friends and neighbours after being inspired to raise money for Spread a Smile following a charity article in The Week Junior.

Art @ GOSH

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Our Enriching Spaces programme continues to brighten the hospital environment and make communal spaces, treatment rooms and wards more inviting places to be.

Marina, our creative Head of Art, recently visited Great Ormond Street Hospital to spread smiles with her stunning wall and window artworks.

Marina said, “It’s lovely working with the children in the design process, feel the mounting excitement as I work and see the smiles of children, parents and staff with the finished artworks.” 


Lavender Smiles

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We were thrilled to hear about 10 year old friends, Pearl and Izzy, who, after reading about Spread a Smile in The Week Junior magazine, were inspired to fundraise for the charity.

Their school, Barnes Primary, runs a Citizenship Award to encourage pupils to look after themselves, their school and their community with a positive mindset. As part of the Award they needed to raise money for charity.

The girls decided to make and sell lavender bags and with the help of Pearl’s mum and Izzy’s grandma they sewed the bags together. They sold the bags door to door and also set up a stall.

Izzy and Pearl raised a fabulous £125. They said, “…we had so much fun and we learn to use a sewing machine. We hopefully think we made a difference in a lot of people’s lives. In the process of this we got to express our creativity which produced unique lavender bags. We are so happy we did this.”