News

Two wonderful days at Great Ormond Street

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We were overjoyed to be back at Great Ormond Street Hospital this week for two brilliant events, Play Street and Get Active! These next couple of weeks mark our first official visits back to the wards, and we’re grateful to be able to start our in-person work again at the Hospital.

Play Street is a wonderful initiative held on Clean Air Day, aimed at raising awareness and increasing air quality at the Hospital. It forms a key part of our ongoing efforts to support seriously unwell children, their families, staff members and the local community.

On the day, Great Ormond Street transformed into a vibrant, buzzy, rainbow-themed play area, where the children were able to let loose and enjoy playing with their friends and family. The activities championed the therapeutic, emotional and psychological benefits of playing, in a safe, clean-air environment.

From falconry to gaming, and from giant bubbles to street painting, we celebrated Clean Air Day in style.

Get Active was Great Ormond Street’s very own sports day. With a wide range of activities available to over 500 families, staff and friends, the day was focused on promoting the benefits of being active following recovery, and encouraged children to get involved as much as possible.

Our team contributed to the fantastic day with magic shows, face-painting with Marina and Yvette, singing from our dazzling fairy Becca, spontaneous poetry, and a visit from our therapy dog, Thomas.

We were so delighted to be involved in the day’s activities, and proud to have contributed to bringing joy to so many children and families.

Inspiring contemporary art tours

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We are so proud to work with the wonderful Karen Smith, who has been conducting contemporary art tours around London, with all proceeds raised going to Spread a Smile.

As an art history graduate and supporter of many London and UK contemporary art institutions, she has a deep and passionate knowledge of the UK contemporary art scene. She uses this knowledge to conduct bi-monthly tours, to discover the most interesting artists, gallery shows, institutions and private collections, all across London from Deptford to Camden.

Upcoming trips this year include an amazing opportunity on the 18th of October to visit the Frieze Sculpture exhibition in Regents Park, the exclusive Cranford private Collection (led by the collectors, Freddy and Muriel Salem themselves), and see highlights at the Fitzrovia gallery.

Also, on the 16th of November, Karen is leading a tour of the Bermondsey Galleries and a private collection focusing on contemporary women artists.

One of recent participants of one of her tours said, ‘You have opened my eyes to a part of London which I hardly knew existed, and has been be a great addition to the joys which our city has to offer.’

There is a suggested donation of a £100, with all the proceeds going to Spread a Smile, and you can donate via this link: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Karen-Smith243?utm_source=Sharethis&utm_medium=fundraising&utm_content=Karen-Smith243&utm_campaign=pfp-email&utm_term=

You can also contact her directly at karen@romneys.net if you are interested in attending any of the upcoming tours, or if you want to receive information about the other tours this year!

Our magical new ambassador – Richard Jones

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We’re over the moon to announce that Britain’s Got Talent winner, Lance Corporal Richard Jones is now a Spread a Smile ambassador. The only magician to ever win Britain’s Got Talent, he regularly performs for royals and celebrities, at parties and theatres around the world. He’s now bringing his spellbinding magic into hospitals to bring a smile to critically-ill children and young people.

On becoming a Spread a Smile ambassador, Richard said, “My experience performing in hospitals with Spread a Smile are among my most cherished memories so far, seeing how big an impact it makes on individuals is truly magical. I’ve joined the roster of entertainers which include fairies, artists and singers, amongst others, and every single incredible performer creates such a positive experience during what is no doubt a scary time in the children’s lives. The most noble art is of course making others smile, and the inspiringly brave children I have met during visits always put a big smile onto my face too. To be chosen as an ambassador is such an honour.”

Lucy Jackson, CEO at Spread a Smile said: “It’s incredible to watch children’s reactions to meeting Richard and seeing him perform. Some of them are huge fans already so not only are they getting to see a Spread a Smile magician in hospital but they are also getting to meet a real hero of theirs. We are so delighted and honoured that Richard has become an official Spread a Smile Ambassador and we are looking forward to working more closely with him and can’t wait to introduce him to more children across our hospital network in the future.”

RideLondon 2022 – Meet our team!

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On Sunday 29 May, 11 wonderful riders took part in RideLondon in aid of Spread a Smile! The annual 100-mile bike ride around London and Essex involved over 15,000 participants. The funds raised by our Smile Heroes will help us to support seriously ill children in hospital.

The riders were: Jimmy Tsekoyras, Pagnagiotis Tsekoyras, Laurence Kidd, James Jacobs, Guy Shaul, Zack Case, Karo Bonas, Adam Diamant, Anthony Gubba, Alain Stechler and Dave Farrell.

One of our riders, Laurence Kidd, was inspired to ride following the support we gave his niece, Maisie. Maisie was born nine weeks prematurely and spent the first weeks of her life in SCU after it transpired she had suffered two significant brain haemorrhages. She unfortunately still suffers from many further health issues, including cerebral palsy, epilepsy and blindness. Now aged 18, she has spent a significant amount of her life in hospital.

We first met Maisie and her family during lockdown in 2020, and Laurence described the work we did as invaluable. As Maisie and her family lost their social life during lockdown restrictions and shielding, we were able to provide some normality and joy to their lives.

Not only did we support Maisie, we also helped her sister Poppy to engage with others, as she had to start home-schooling to protect her shielding sister.

Just before the race, Laurence said, ‘Doing events such as RideLondon is my way of repaying Spread a Smile for the work they have done to support my family over the pandemic. I do have quite a bit of cycling experience and previously completed the 50-mile ride. While this is the longest ride I will have done, I feel confident and ready. Most of all, I’m so excited to see my wife and son at the finish line on Tower Bridge, which is where I proposed!’

After the event, Laurence said he was sore but had an amazing day! He completed the 100-mile course in 6 hours and 23 minutes, which is a great achievement.

You can still donate to Laurence’s JustGiving page here.

Huge thanks from all of us at Spread a Smile to our team of cyclists for all the training and efforts on the big day; we are incredibly grateful.

Tea-time! Our new partnership with Mildreds

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We’re delighted to have partnered with Midreds Restaurants, a gorgeous group of plant-based restaurants! We had our first Spread a Smile tea party at their Covent Garden location last month, where the team at the restaurant put on a fantastic spread, including cheese toasties, fruit, brownies, cookies and cheesecakes!

We also brought four families to the Covent Garden restaurant this week, where the children were entertained by the wonderful Mr Magic. Jordan the manager of Mildred’s Covent Garden made this visit extra special by allowing the children to pick their own juices and watch them being made, which caused much excitement.

It was lovely to be able to bring critically ill children and young people to the tea party with their loved ones, to experience a proper afternoon tea.

They have locations in Soho, Camden, Kings Cross, Dalston, Covent Garden and Borough, so we hope that this partnership will be an opportunity for families to take a break for a couple of hours away from the hospital, across many of our partner facilities in London.

Aside from our tea party, Mildreds were also kind enough to provide Brownies for our trip to the Lion King on the West End!

Sam Anstey, Managing Director at Mildreds said, ‘We are proud to be working with such a special charity. Spread a Smile do amazing work and all our teams are so pleased to be able to support them. It has been great to be involved and to experience the impact that Spread a Smile have in helping others.’

Football legends join blockbuster fundraiser!

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On Friday, 13th of May, a 7-a-side football tournament took place at Billericay Town F.C. in aid of Spread a Smile! Organised and coordinated by LMAC Group and DNA Insurance, many teams from local Essex businesses competed in the grand competition.

We can’t thank Lee McDowell of LMAC Group and Danny Imray from DNA Insurance enough, both for their work in putting on the amazing event, and their decision to support Spread a Smile!

As well as the football, there was also an auction of many historic sporting items, which included Tyson Fury signed trunks, a Floyd Mayweather signed glove, signed football memorabilia, luxury hotel stays and much more.

Through the fundraising and the auction, an incredible £20,224 was raised for Spread a Smile, an amount which will be invaluable in supporting our mission to bring smiles to critically-ill children and their families in hospital.

Also attending the day were West Ham legends, Sir Trevor Brooking, Tony Gale, and Mark Ward. It was a wonderful opportunity for the Spread a Smile team to chat to some sporting legends, hearing some of their stories and telling them about the important work that we do.

As a thank you for their incredible work in organising this event, we have dedicated a hospital visit at St Mary’s this week to Lee, Danny, and all those who took part in and organised the tournament!

As a thank you for their incredible work in organising this event, our CEO, Lucy Jackson, said “We dedicated a hospital visit at St Mary’s Hospital to Lee, Danny, and all those who took part in and organised the tournament.  Collectively they raised an incredible amount of money for us, which will help fund our work locally and across the UK, supporting seriously ill children in hospital.  We can’t thank Lee, Danny and everyone involved enough. It’s only with the help of our supporters organising events, introducing us to their peers and helping spread the word of our work that we can continue to spread smiles far and wide.”

A wild ride! RideLondon 2022

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On Sunday, the 29th of May, one of our supporters and friends, Karo Bonas will take part in RideLondon in aid of Spread a Smile. The 100 mile ride, starting in Embankment and taking place across a loop of London and Essex is one of the UK’s largest cycling events, with over 15,000 riders taking part on the day.

Karo is the Head of Portfolio and Programme Management Practice at Opticore IT, who are wonderful supporters of Spread a Smile and Karo joins some of his colleagues who have also undertaken challenges for us in recent months.

Karo says he first become aware of the charity when his best friend’s son, Louis, was at Great Ormond Street Hospital four years ago, receiving treatment for cancer. Given the severity of the situation, the family were reluctant at first to participate in the Spread a Smile visits but Karo says ultimately the service Spread a Smile provided was life changing. Seeing how much the visits changed the atmosphere of their stay brought Karo and the rest of Louis’ loved ones a great peace of mind. Having children of his own, Karo said that seeing the work Spread a Smile does is hugely important to him, and hopes that through raising these funds we will be able to support even more critically ill children and families.

Karo says that he was more experienced in mountain biking when younger, and that training for the event has been a significant challenge. He has been riding 150 miles a week in preparation for, both solo and with his team of four, and that he has one more long 50 mile ride left before the big day! Karo says that he is aiming to finish in under 6 and a half hours, but would realistically be happy with just finishing.

We’re incredibly grateful to Karo, Opticore IT, and all of those who are riding on Sunday in aid of Spread a Smile, and wish them the best of luck for the event! Some of our team will be along the course to cheer on competitors, so please say hello if you see us, and give our riders a big shout if they pass you.

If you’d like to take part in one of our challenges representing Spread Smile, you can find more information here: https://spreadasmile.org/challenge-events/

Thoughtful deliveries for teenagers in hospital

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Tamar, Orli, Daniella, and Isabel from Hasmonean High School partnered with GIFT to make special gifts for teenage girls in hospital.

The result was 50 beautifully packed tie-dye kits, all with a gorgeous soft bobble hat and a hand-written note which Spread a Smile gave out to teenage girls at UCLH.

Linda, Youth Support Coordinator from UCLH, said: “Thank you so much to Spread a Smile for supplying the tie-dye activity kits for our patients. Teenagers receiving treatment at our Teenage Cancer Ward and at the Macmillan Cancer Centre have had the opportunity to get creative and colourful using the kits to create their own fabulous designs. Activities like these give precious moments of distraction to our teenage patients, offering space to focus on something different from their condition and treatment, and is also gives time to have fun and try something different.”

A big thank you to the girls from Hasmonean High School for being so thoughtful and creative.

New partnership with Northwick Park Hospital

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We’re delighted to announce our seventeenth hospital partnership with Northwick Park Hospital, a major NHS facility in Harrow, North West London.

The hospital is a specialist paediatric oncology shared care unit, meaning that lots of seriously ill children are there for treatment and recovery. They also perform a number of paediatric surgeries.

The partnership will allow us to spread smiles widely to children across the hospital, initially in person via its Oncology Clinics, and later to Jack’s Place, its inpatient wards. Currently the Spread a Smile team visits monthly, celebrating with children who are finishing cancer treatment, providing an added treat for them.

So far, we have had four visits at the hospital and are looking forward to building strong and vital connections with families at the facility.

Children at Northwick Park NHS hospital will be invited to join weekly virtual group hospital visits from entertainers, take part in themed activity days that include key calendar hook events linked to Halloween and Christmas, as well as receive surprise treat drops like ice cream on World Ice Cream Day.

Miriam Sager, Paediatric Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist said of the partnership, “The Spread a Smile team have been invaluable already.  We’ve been truly blown away by their amazing input, thought and care into wanting to support our children and their families.  There truly was pure happiness and joy in the air during their visits.”

Lucy Jackson, Spread a Smile CEO, added, “We are delighted to be providing monthly in-person entertainer visits to the paediatric oncology clinic at Northwick Park Hospital as well as patients participating in our virtual offering. Our support to the young oncology patients at Northwick Park Hospital is all about making their experience in hospital a more positive one and distracting them from challenging treatments and procedures!”

Getting Creative! An art update

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Over the last month, we’ve had a number of incredible art activities for children across various hospitals to take part in! Art classes, whether virtually or in person, can be a great way for the critically ill children who we support in hospitals to take their focus away from their condition and treatment, and towards something creative, colourful, and fun!

One of these fantastic classes was a Banksy themed painting workshop with teenagers at Great Ormond Street Hospital, where Laura, one of our resident artists, taught them about painting techniques. This included using different brush strokes, blending colours, using tones to compliment each other, and creating an eye-catching image! Those who took part had an amazing time and were able to come away having created a piece of art they could be proud of.

As well as this, we celebrated Eid Mubarak with a virtual lantern making class, featuring Aisha, one of our arts and crafts entertainers! For many children in hospital and their families, holidays are the hardest part of the year, as they are unable to celebrate together in the ways that they are used to. Therefore, having a communal activity such as this which they can get involved with and be engaged in is vitally important. The lantern holds a special significance during Eid, as it symbolises hope, and a light shining your way out of the darkness. Being able to spread joy and laughter to these children, using these lanterns, was a wonderful way to honour the holiday.

Finally, thanks to the wonderful work of one of our resident artists, Marina, we were able to give the outpatient ward at Great Ormond Street Hospital a colourful make-over! Painting some of the walls and windows to show vibrant pictures of children, flowers, and butterflies, the unit now feels much more like home for children and their families.