800 530 Susie

When Folakemi was one year old she was diagnosed with a large hole in her heart (VSD) and transposition of the great arteries, a serious heart defect where the two main blood vessels leaving the heart are swapped. This resulted in irreversible damage to her lungs, causing difficulties with mobility and breathing and considerably reducing her life expectancy.  

The family were told that Folakemi would receive palliative care and she was also referred to Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH). Although Folakemi’s heart could not be fully repaired, she underwent successful surgery to switch the arteries and is still monitored every three months at GOSH to check that she remains stable. It was during one of these appointments, when Folakemi was around 7 years old, that the family first met Spread a Smile. 

Mum Anita said, “We were waiting for our appointment and some of the Spread a Smile entertainers came by doing magic tricks and other fun things. Folakemi absolutely loved it and it really cheered us both up. So when we left the hospital I went online and got in touch with the charity to find out more.

“We signed up for all sorts of virtual online sessions, from magic to storytelling and art and the distraction was amazing. It was nice to see Folakemi do something just for herself, that was fun and not something medical. Because of Folakemi’s condition, I was homeschooling her and we were able to sign up to an online tutor through Spread a Smile as well. They did some science sessions together which is one of her favourite subjects and it was so nice to have someone else help teach her for a bit.

“Folakemi’s condition is life-limiting and as she grows we just don’t know what will happen as her body finds it difficult to get enough oxygen around. So the online sessions give her something really happy to do. Folakemi now does guitar lessons with Andy and Kiri every other Monday and she absolutely loves them. They make them so interactive and accessible for her and take it at her speed. 

“She also does a weekly art session together with her sister which is really lovely. Spread a Smile sends out the arts and crafts pack to us in advance and the children love getting stuck in. For me, it’s nice to see them doing something together and sometimes I even get a chance to just sit quietly and have a cup of tea. It means a lot to watch my daughters being happy, doing something they love and interacting with other people, just like other children. 

“The Spread a Smile sessions are so valuable to Folakemi as they belong to HER. They are about her and no one can take them away from her. Folakemi loves everyone at Spread a Smile and has said that she would love for someone like Kiri to be with her all the time as she is always smiling and singing. 

“It has meant the world to us as a family to have the support of the team at Spread a Smile. We see Folakemi laughing and happy and enjoying different experiences and Spread a Smile brings so much vibrancy and joy to our lives. They really do go above and beyond to support the kids, knowing everyone by name and celebrating whatever the kids are doing and can achieve. We come away feeling so great every time and Folakemi is proud of everything she achieves and creates with Spread a Smile. 

“The team has shown such kindness to us, sending a surprise balloon for Folakemi’s birthday. None of us knew it was coming and it was so exciting receiving the box and not knowing what it was. Then the ‘walking’ unicorn balloon popped out of the box and Folakemi was over the moon as unicorns are her favourite. It became her best friend and she took it everywhere. It was a personal and thoughtful gift, as are the Smile hampers they send out at Christmas time. Spread a Smile really does make a real difference and are so kind and supportive.

“Spread a Smile shines a little light through all the worry and darkness, particularly at Christmas time. Folakemi and her sister Tempitope are so looking forward to receiving their Smile Hampers. The excitement and joy are wonderful and it brings a tear to my eye watching them laugh and unwrap their gifts. It means the world to all of us.”

As Folakemi herself said, “I love Spread a Smile, the people, the art and all the fun things. They make me happy.”

Please donate £25 to help fund a Smile Hamper for children like Folakemi and Temitope. Thank you.