Every Pack Gives Back with McVitie’s BN biscuits

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We are delighted to announce that McVitie’s has partnered with Spread a Smile, supporting the charity through its iconic McVitie’s BN biscuits. The partnership is a perfect fit, as the BN biscuit is well-known for its smiley face.

Not only have McVitie’s BN donated to help fund Spread a Smile’s work supporting seriously ill children in hospital, they are also including the charity’s branding and details of the partnership on in store media to raise awareness of the work we do under their ‘Every Pack Gives Back’ messaging.

McVitie’s BN biscuits made a triumphant return to shelves in January 2022, allowing fans the chance to once again ‘taste the smile’.

The first wave of the ‘Every Pack Gives Back campaign’ supporting Spread a Smile appeared in Asda stores across the country back in May 2023. A second burst of activity is planned for September, reaching into even more major retailers, including Sainsbury’s.

The return of the BN biscuits jingle “BN BN, do doo do doo-do” across several radio stations this month is also helping to raise awareness of the partnership with Spread a Smile.

Lucy Jackson, Spread a Smile Chief Executive said, “Our partnership with McVitie’s BN is an exciting opportunity for Spread a Smile. This year, our aim is to spread smiles to even more seriously ill children and their families in more hospitals and thanks to the financial support and brand awareness provided by McVitie’s, we’ll be able to do just that. We are extremely grateful to them for sharing their BN smile with us.” 

Aslı Özen Turhan, Chief Marketing Officer at pladis UK&I said: We at McVitie’s BN are proud to support Spread a Smile with the incredible work they do bringing joy to thousands of seriously ill children in hospitals and hospices across the UK. We hope the partnership with BN helps continue to bring smiles to those who need it most.”

We’d like to say a huge thank you to McVitie’s BN for their support and helping us to spread smiles far and wide.

Please get in touch with Amanda Azouz if you or your company are interested in supporting Spread a Smile and making a difference to seriously ill children in hospital. Thank you

A VIP family outing to London Zoo

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What a way to end the Summer! Last week we were joined by 18 of the families we support for a very special trip to London Zoo, with VIP access to visit the zoo and exclusive access to the Mappin Pavilion overlooking the emu and wallaby enclosure.

The sun shone and our families enjoyed a wonderful day visiting the animals before enjoying a delicious lunch with yummy cupcakes from our friends at Lola’s Cupcakes. Our guests were also able to choose their own ice creams and toppings from their very own ice cream truck.

Our outings are a brilliant way for seriously ill children and their families to enjoy a day out, away from hospital and the worries and stress of serious illness. As usual, some of the Spread a Smile entertainers joined in the fun including Mr Magic and Paul our magicians, Fairy Betty and Marina and Eva on face painting.

“Thank you so much for today. The children have been really fed up as they have been in hospital for 5 weeks now and were feeling pretty low the last few days. It’s really done them the world of good to get out. Exhausted but happy! We really appreciate it.” Parent

The outing was made possible thanks to generous support from our partners, Downing LLP who sponsored the day. We were also joined on the day by 10 volunteers from Downing who helped run arts and crafts activities for the children and their siblings.

“Being a part of the Zoo experience and seeing first-hand the difference Spread a Smile is making for these families is extraordinary. The children and their families are going through so much, so for them to have an enjoyable break for a whole day was a truly lovely and grounding experience for us to be a part of. Thank you to Spread a Smile for including us, we look forward to supporting them again in the future!” Downing LLP

We would like to say a huge thank you to all of the families who joined us, Downing for supporting this wonderful event, Lola’s Cupcakes and everyone at London Zoo for their kindness and making the day so special.

To find out more about our family events, please click here.

The Magic Circle recognises Spread a Smile

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Every year, The Magic Circle recognises leading magicians who have made significant contributions to the art of magic, including top performers, historians, authors, and those who have served the magic community. Their ‘Martin Chapender Award’ recognises services to the community using magic and celebrates the power of magic to have a positive effect on all who experience it.

This year Spread a Smile is delighted and proud to be the chosen as the recipient for the Martin Chapender Award, following in the footsteps of previous winners, Breathe AHR, who use magic as a form of physiotherapy, and The College of Magic, who use it to empower disadvantaged children.

Megan Swann, President of The Magic Circle said, “As a performance art, magic is designed to bring joy to those who watch, which is also what makes it such a powerful tool for community work. I am delighted to recognise the truly magical work Spread a Smile does to bring joy young people at their most difficult times, with this year’s Martin Chapender award for services to the community using magic.”

Last night, Spread a Smile co-founders Josephine Segal and Vanessa Crocker joined The Magic Circle for a special Awards ceremony and to receive their award, saying,

“It is an absolute honour for Spread a Smile to receive The Magic Circle, Martin Chapender Award, in recognition of the incredible work our magicians do every day spreading smiles to seriously ill children and young people in hospital and at home. Thank you to The Magic Circle for shining a light on the role of our Spread a Smile magic across hospital wards up and down the country.”

Spread a Smile’s team of 17 amazing magicians regularly visit seriously ill children and young people in hospital, bringing the wonder, distraction and fun of magic directly onto the wards of our 27 NHS hospital partners. Our magicians also deliver virtual sessions, enabling us to reach even more children across the country in groups or at home.

Magic has always played a key role in Spread a Smile’s work and the charity was founded in 2013 by Josephine Segal and Vanessa Crocker after seeing the positive impact a magician’s visit had on Josephine’s young nephew, Aaron, during his treatment at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH).

Aaron had become increasingly withdrawn, so Josephine arranged for a magician to visit and 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, but hospital regulations made this impossible. Undeterred, Josephine promised Aaron she would find a way to make it happen. She teamed up with friend and former colleague Vanessa Crocker and working closely with GOSH, they founded Spread a Smile.

Ten years on and we haven’t looked back, with magic remaining a core part of our work, bringing so much fun and enjoyment to the families we support. As one parent said,

“Jack loved Mr Magic and all the Spread a Smile magicians. The consistency of seeing them in different hospitals really helped him to cope with his illness and treatment. During Proton Beam Therapy, we stay away from home for over 6 weeks and feel really isolated. Our Spread a Smile visits helped us to meet other families and really gave us something to look forward to.”

To find out more about Spread a Smile’s work supporting seriously ill children and their families across the UK, read on here.

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

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September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and a time to highlight the impact cancer has on children, young people and their families.

Each year, Spread a Smile’s team of therapeutic entertainers support hundreds of children, young people and their families, battling all kinds of serious illnesses. Cancer is one of them.

Around 12 children and young people in the UK will find out the devastating news that they have cancer every day, which marks the beginning of a difficult path navigating hospital admissions, invasive treatments, pain and horrible side effects, and ongoing worry and uncertainty.

Spread a Smile’s mission is to be there for as many young people and their families as possible, bringing joy, fun, laughter, distraction, and friendship during some of the most difficult times. Young people like Hannah who in 2022 was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare type of soft tissue sarcoma (cancer).

Andrea, Hannah’s Mum said, “We discovered Spread a Smile whilst waiting for proton beam therapy in the hospital playroom. There was a notice on the wall saying that Spread a Smile would be visiting with a therapy dog, so we asked to change Hannah’s treatment time to coincide with their visit. 

“We met Laura from the charity who explained what Spread a Smile does and how they could support Hannah. Laura was so kind, asking Hannah what she was interested in and listening to her and what she had to say. We realised that Hannah really enjoyed art and so she started weekly art classes in hospital with Abi, one of the Spread a Smile artists. Hannah also loved meeting the magicians and therapy dogs – Buddy, Harry, Thomas and Choco!

“It was such a good thing for both of us – throwing balls for the dogs, having cuddles, learning magic tricks and creating something in art. Hannah would become very poorly whilst on chemotherapy, so we weren’t allowed home at weekends and spent six weeks away from home and family in London. Meeting Spread a Smile would break up the week and give Hannah (and me) so many moments of laughter, happiness and enjoyment.  

“Instead of just turning up at the exact time for our appointments, we would arrive at hospital first thing for when Spread a Smile arrived, so we could spend as much time as possible with them. Hannah didn’t want to miss a thing! It gave her a sense of purpose and meant a huge amount to both of us.

“Spread a Smile also invited us on an outing to afternoon tea at Mildreds restaurant in London – which was brilliant. It was a chance for us to have a day out together, in amongst all the treatment and hospital stuff. We were able to relax and breathe for a while.”

“Since coming home, we are so lucky that Hannah has been able to continue her art classes every other week over Zoom. The classes are a way of her being with other people – friends now – who don’t treat her differently because of her illness. She is Hannah the person, not the illness. She looks forward to the sessions as she is listened to and valued. She has choices and independence which is hugely important when your life feels like it’s controlled by something like cancer.

“Spread a Smile has made a huge difference to Hannah, making life just a bit more manageable.”

Thank you to everyone who makes the work we do spreading smiles to young people like Hannah possible. Click here to find out more about our work across the UK.

Please get in touch if you would like to access our services here.

Reaching more patients virtually

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Spread a Smile’s mission is to bring joy to as many seriously ill children and young people across the country. Thanks to a generous donation of 10 iPads and cases from CJC IT we’ll now be able to reach even more of the most vulnerable patients, carrying out virtual visits in hospitals when face-to-face visits aren’t possible.

Some hospitalised patients are not able to meet our team in person due to infection risk, for example, if they are severely immunocompromised and at a greater risk of serious infection. Spread a Smile Visit Managers will take an iPad with them to our NHS hospital partners and safely pass the iPad to a seriously ill patient so they can meet the Spread a Smile entertainers virtually and enjoy the magic and distraction that they bring.

Spread a Smile Director of Services, Laura Walter said, “When a child is seriously ill, sometimes they might spend weeks or even months isolated from the world around them, not able to do things that other children are doing or see many people other than medical staff. Thanks to the generous gift of iPads from CJC IT, Spread a Smile will be able to reach some of the most vulnerable and seriously ill children and young people, providing moments of comfort and joy during one of the most difficult times of their lives.”

Some of the iPads will also be donated to our hospitals so that Play Teams and staff can access our wider virtual visits and group sessions with their patients when we are not there in person.

Paul Gow, Chief Executive Officer and Founder at CJC said, “Seeing the impact of Spread a Smile first-hand last year really touched me, personally and as a company, CJC is committed and strongly supports the welfare and children’s wellbeing.” He adds, “Many of CJC’s staff are actively volunteering and raising money in support of Spread a Smile, for example, Tough Mudder London next month.”

A huge thank you to CJC IT for their wonderful support and for helping us to spread even more smiles when they are needed most.

Please get in touch with us at to find out how you or your company can help spread smiles across the UK.

*As always, Spread a Smile will work with the hospital team to adhere to strict infection control procedures, wiping down and sterilising the iPad in between patients.

Building our partnership with the LEGO Group

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Since beginning our partnership with the LEGO Group last year, we’ve seen some wonderful initiatives take place for our families, including a special LEGO® build for our 10th anniversary dinner centre pieces and a brilliant LEGO® Masterclass last year as part of their ‘Build the Change’ program.

More recently Spread a Smile’s entertainers and Visit Managers took part in a special Play Agent workshop, exploring the importance of play and how to creatively use LEGO® bricks to facilitate play during our hospital visits.

When a child is ill in hospital, so many day-to-day childhood experiences are lost. Our aim is to bring back some of those experiences, taking them into hospital and helping children to smile and escape from what is going on around them for a little while.

Since the workshop, some of our entertainers have been using LEGO® bricks in hospital to help break the ice before sessions, often finding it a useful and relaxed way of introducing ourselves to new patients, particularly some of the older ones, as the bricks act as a great distraction and point of engagement.

We were also delighted to accompany three of the families we support to the LEGO Group’s office in London for a very special all-exclusive tour, during which we enjoyed a fascinating workshop hosted by the LEGO Group and the opportunity to ask questions and find out more about the iconic LEGO® bricks, including the heaviest set and when the first brick was created.

We’re so grateful to the LEGO Group for their continued support and creativity in helping to spread smiles to the seriously ill children we support.

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

Meet Debbie, Spread a Smile Visit Manager

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Spread a Smile Visit Managers play a vital role facilitating the delivery of our services across our hospital and hospice partners. Acting as the point of contact between our partners and the entertainment team, they ensure the smooth running of our visits.

Meet Debbie Tropp who has been a Spread a Smile Visit Manager for seven years and read on to find out more about her work.

Tell us about your role with Spread a Smile and what it involves…

“I started working for Spread a Smile nine years ago, providing monthly art and craft sessions at the Royal London Hospital in their huge playroom. Straight away I loved it. I love working with the amazing children and families, the fabulous medical staff, Spread a Smile’s talented team of entertainers and the incredible team in the office.  

“Since the pandemic, I am mainly based at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), organising the regular weekly visits into the intensive care areas. This involves teaming up with one of our talented singers and visiting all of the babies, children and teenagers in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and Cardiac Intensive Care Unity (CICU) and also the older babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The singers will sing beautiful songs from nursery rhymes to Disney, show tunes and pop songs. We mostly sing to the patients but also take parent requests too. Anything goes really.

“I also help deliver the Spread a Smile weekly entertainer visits on a Thursday morning to GOSH, where we try and visit as many wards and hospital areas as we can, delivering a whole range of entertainment from music, to magic, to therapy dog and fairy visits.”

What does a day in the life of a Visit Manager look like?

“I meet up with the entertainer(s) before going into the hospital and we walk to the ward, always following infection control procedures. We normally see the nurse in charge or Play Specialist for a quick hand over and then proceed to walk around the ward, being mindful of what is going on for each individual patient.

“We absolutely love it when a staff member specifically tells us that they have someone they want us to see. It’s amazing how beneficial our interactions and singing are for the patient, parent and all medical and non-medical staff. Often, I observe staff singing along, tapping away or doing a fully shimmy as our entertainer sings to the child and family. A few times the medical staff have noticed positive changes in a child’s heart recording. Many times, I have seen children really relax and even fall asleep.

“We receive so many positive comments saying that our visits have helped reduce anxiety and brought out smiles in children who haven’t smiled for a while. I remember Tash, one of our singers once singing to three babies, one after the other, all in a row, sending them all to sleep. The atmosphere completely changed and staff and parents were all talking about the wonderful therapeutic value of soft singing.”

Tell us about your specialist work in the intensive care areas at GOSH

“I feel honoured to be allowed to visit the intensive care areas and help provide some therapeutic input in a very clinical situation. We started regular visits just before the pandemic lockdown and then worked closely with medical staff and Matrons to continue to deliver these sessions. Even during the pandemic, I would have an iPad and use that to deliver the entertainment, with our singers singing virtually. This is something we have continued with some of the most vulnerable children under infection control. It’s important work, providing much needed and wanted distraction, stimulation and entertainment to the patient and everyone in the room with them. Being able to visit these patients in PICU and CICU from outside the room means we can help create some very special moments and memories during a very intense time for the families.”

“We had a baby in PICU recently, who hadn’t slept properly all day and was lying in her Mother’s arm. I approached the Mum, quietly inquiring if they would like us to sing. At first she was a bit hesitant as her child was so exhausted, really struggling to sleep. Mum also said that her baby usually loved to hear singing especially Disney and nursery rhymes as she had an older child. I reassured Mum that we could stop at any time. Our lovely talented fairy Tamara sang very softly, nursery and Disney songs and you could just see the Mother and child relax and connect as Tamara sang. Around us the doctors were listening, the nurses were swaying and the parents in the next bed where smiling as they watched their child sleeping. The whole atmosphere was soothed by the singing. The Mum was so happy that we had visited that we ended up going back again to sing to her older child who came to visit a while later.”

What is the best thing about your role? 

“Seeing the huge difference we make to children and families in the intensive care units is very special. It is also amazing to connect with the lovely caring staff in hospital who work so hard to support their patients.

“When a parent sees and shares the benefit of our visit with us, it’s amazing as we know that what we’re doing is worthwhile and making such a difference. We often support families who have been on the wards for a long time, and we feel part of their journey. When they get to go home, it is a very emotional time and it’s wonderful when they then access our Spread a Smile virtual entertainment, family parties and events. We are on their journey with them for as long as they need us.”

Can you share any poignant experiences with us?

“During lockdown, when infection control procedures allowed, I set up a music group with singing and instruments for a small group of children waiting for a heart and/or lung transplant in a high dependency unit at GOSH. I am a qualified Play Specialist and was allowed to come in once a week to spend time with a wonderful group of children. Only one parent was allowed to visit, so we would Zoom in other family members to join in with the session. It felt so important to be helping to connect families during one of the most difficult times of their lives, when the pandemic and serious illness were keeping them apart.

“Before the Pandemic we visited PICU and CICU once or twice a week. From the end February 2021, all visits stopped, so we made art packs to send in for the children on the wards, along with presents to help cheer them up. I agreed with GOSH and Spread a Smile that I would volunteer at the GOSH, using my volunteer badge and experience as a qualified Hospital Play Specialist. I was given a yellow volunteer top to wear and it felt like such a proud moment.

“I helped out on Bear ward once a week on a Tuesday and it was so strange at first wearing a mask for the whole day. It was hard for the patients and their families as only one parent was allowed to stay with their child on the ward and it had to be the same parent each time, meaning families where separated. I remember some parents didn’t get to see their children on the wards, for four months during the first lockdown.

“Alongside the music group, I also worked with Spread a Smile to deliver entertainment via Zoom on iPads so that the children could enjoy even more of the Spread a Smile ‘magic’. As time went on, we expanded our offering to other wards and I increased the number of days I visited, also being allowed to visit children in PICU. It was a challenging, but special time knowing we were making a difference when it was needed most.

“I love my work and one of the best things is when staff stop us as we walk around the hospital telling us that we do exactly what it says on our t-shirts ‘Spread a Smile’.

A delicious partnership with Pan-n-Ice

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Spread a Smile has been working in partnership with Pan-n-Ice for a number of years now. The ice cream experts regularly support our Winter and Summer family and generously give up their time three or four times a year to join us on visits to deliver delicious ice creams to patients in the hospitals we support.

What’s more, Pan-n-Ice have recently launched a brand new, exclusive ice cream flavour in support of Spread a Smile.

The vanilla ice cream rolls with cookie dough and Oreo topped with sprinkles are available to buy at Westfield Stratford Parlour, with 20% of profits from the flavour will be donated to Spread a Smile

Pan-n-Ice have also kindly agreed to host a special event for some of the children and families we support at their Stratford Parlour, delivering three masterclasses and inviting the special guests to make their own ice cream.

Lucy Jackson, Spread a Smile Chief Executive said, “Continued support from our friends at Pan-n-Ice means a huge amount to Spread a Smile. Not only does it raise vital awareness and funds for our work spreading smiles to seriously ill children and young people, it also enables our families to share moments of joy through the simple act of enjoying an ice cream at a time when simple pleasures are often missed. Thank you Pan-n-Ice.”

Henry Milroy, Founder of Pan-n-Ice added, “We are delighted to be taking our partnership with Spread a Smile to the next level by launching a brand new, exclusive ice cream flavour with them at our Westfield Stratford parlour. Spread a Smile has and always will be a big part of our Pan-n-Ice journey and we can’t wait to continue supporting such an amazing, inspiring charity!”

Please do get in touch if you’d like to find out more about supporting Spread a Smile by emailing – Thank you.

A special residential trip to Flynne’s Barn

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For the second year running, Spread a Smile accompanied three of the families we support on a wonderful residential trip to Flynne’s Barn, located right in the heart of the Cumbrian mountains.

Flynne’s Barn is a very special place, set up by Katherine, Robin, and their son Harry, after their 17-year-old daughter sadly died of cancer in 2016. Named in her memory, Flynne’s Barn is a place where young people living with cancer can come together to find peace and forge friendships in the beautiful Lake District surroundings. It recognises and celebrates Flynne’s love of nature and fearless positivity in making meaningful connections with other young people with cancer and has become a mission that Katherine and Robin have put at the centre of everything they do.

This year we were joined by Amelia, Ridha and Ahmed along with their seven siblings and parents for four days, where they participated in many activities, such as pony riding, canoeing, forest school and meeting rescue dogs. They also created beautiful pieces of art with our incredible artist Marina, played many games, and enjoyed nightly campfires with music and singing. Our lovely aromatherapist, Priya, also helped everyone to unwind and relax with massage and aromatherapy treatments.

It was amazing to see the children and parents fully embrace all the activities and explore the magical environment surrounding Flynne’s Barn. The families all worked as a team when canoeing, and it was amazing the see the confidence grow in the children as they formed new friendships and learned new skills. It was an incredible escape from the world of medical treatment and uncertainty and the families were able to switch off and enjoy time together as a family, making special memories. One of the families who attended cooked a traditional Pakistani curry for everyone, and we all ate together to mark our last night together. It was such a special treat for everyone!

Spread a Smile’s Director of Services, Laura Walter joined the families for the trip saying, “We were so lucky to have the opportunity to spend four days at Flynne’s Barn with some of the wonderful families we support – all of whom have a child undergoing treatment for cancer.

“It was a jam packed few days with a range of activities which enabled our families to forge new friendships and make new connections, whilst enjoying everything the beautiful surroundings had to offer. Everyone embraced everything we did, making the most of the exciting opportunities and experiences.

“Flynne’s Barn is a very special place with a magical quality about it. It was wonderful watching the children grow in confidence and having the opportunity to just be children in a safe and tranquil environment.”

Fatma, Ahmed’s Mum said, “Thank you so much for inviting us to the Lake District. It was just the kind of respite we needed and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The children are beaming and Sarfraz (Ahmed’s Dad) and I are feeling so relaxed and refreshed.

“It was wonderful to have time away as a family to escape from treatments and hospital and it really gave us the time to breathe. The Spread a Smile team are beyond amazing. They are just so understanding, warm and gentle with the children. It was so lovely to see and also to get a chance to have a rest as an adult.”

Katherine Bonner from Flynne’s Barn said, “It’s fantastic to collaborate with Spread a Smile to bring families to the beautiful valley. The surroundings and the tremendous support that the Spread a Smile team provide has a tangible impact. It’s wonderful to see both the children and their parents settle in and embrace all Flynne’s Barn has to offer”.

Thank you to all of our supporters who make trips such as this possible.  Also to Flynne’s Barn for being such wonderful hosts and Priya and our amazing team for making the event so memorable.

Click here to donate and help us continue to be there for our families when they need us most.

Little Learners

Messy play with Little Learners at GOSH

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Last month saw us launch a new support initiative with Little Leaners, the UK’s Leading Educational Messy Play Company, to deliver monthly sensory play sessions for toddlers receiving long-term treatment at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH).

Every month, the team from Little Learners help to create a very special learning experience for young children on the wards, exploring tuff trays full of wet and dry ingredients, mark making to help build strong core muscles and encourage first steps towards writing, plus fun activities such as drawing, sorting, building and much more.

For children spending long periods of time in hospital, the sessions are a welcome respite from the day-to-day worry, pain and struggles of managing serious illness. They are a chance to break out from the monotony of long stays in hospital and a wonderful opportunity for very young children to simply have fun.

Laura Walter, Director of Services for Spread a Smile said, “We believe that play holds an important place in every child’s development, even when they are dealing with serious illness. Children need to find space and time to enjoy themselves, relax and have fun. Play provides amazing opportunities to engage with others, explore, be creative and escape from whatever is worrying them or causing pain. Even if that is just for a short time, it can have incredible benefits on the child and everyone around them.

“We are excited and grateful to have the opportunity to work with Little Learners to deliver these wonderful play sessions for children at Great Ormond Street Hospital who are spending long periods on time in hospital and look forward to seeing many more smiles and messy hands in the months to come.”

We’re so grateful to Little Learners UK for their support and the brilliant Play Team at GOSH for enabling us to help create these special moments.

“We feel incredibly honoured to have the opportunity to deliver our sessions to the children at Great Ormond Street, who may have not usually been given the opportunity. It was AMAZING to see the progress and development of the children during the sessions whilst they explored different materials, learned through play and well and truly made their mark!” Little Learners

Please consider making a donation to help us continue our vital work spreading smiles to seriously ill children and young people across our NHS hospital partners. Thank you.