News

Spreading smiles to children in Demelza Hospice

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We are thrilled to have partnered with the Demelza Hospice in London. The hospice provides specialist one-to-one care and support for critically ill babies, children, and young people up to the age of 18.

Our team will be visiting the children at Demelza Hospice in person every month and families will also have access to our range of virtual events as part of our new partnership. We hope our services will make a huge difference in supporting Demelza Hospice’s care of seriously ill children.

Spread a Smile’s resident entertainers, Jasmin and Daniel, visited the children for the first time this month, sprinkling a little bit of joy with dancing, singing, parachute games and magic shows.

Bethany Harris, Senior Healthcare Assistant at Demelza Hospice, said: “Since Spread a Smile started visiting, it feels as though we all have our sparkle back. Lockdown in a hospice has had its challenges, making memories with children and families at the forefront of what we do. It has been really lovely to have such incredible visits from Jasmin and Daniel after not having visitors for so long. They just know how to make the children feel special.”

We cannot wait to visit the children at Demelza Hospice again to spread more smiles.

We deliver 2,000 blankets to children in hospital

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In March, we partnered with Character World to gift 2,000 blankets to children in hospital. Character World, who work with some of the world’s leading gaming, music, and film companies to create licensed products, donated the blankets which we then delivered to children across the UK.

Featuring popular children’s characters including Baby Shark, Lego, Stranger Things, LOL OMG and Minecraft, the blankets have already started to bring smiles to faces of the children across the 23 Spread a Smile hospital partners, including Great Ormond Street Hospital, University College Hospital, Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, Leicester Children’s Hospital, Christie Hospital in Manchester, and many more.

We have distributed the blankets alongside our usual programme of in-hospital and virtual entertainment, which includes fairies, magicians, singers, face-painters, therapy dogs that make bedside visits, as well as organised art initiatives and family events.

This effort was part of our aim to spread 40,000 smiles this year.

Lucy Jackson, Chief Executive, Spread a Smile said: “These blankets make such a difference to our young patients, bringing smiles, warmth and comfort, making the hospital environment more child-friendly and less clinical. We can’t thank the team at Character World enough for making this possible. Our partners are so important to the work that we do in spreading some much needed joy at some of the darkest moments.”

Danny Schweiger, Character World Joint Managing Director added: “Character World is proud to support such an important and inspirational organisation. The work that Spread a Smile does is fantastic, and we are proud to have been able to donate some of our fantastic products.”

Spreading love on Valentine’s Day

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This Valentine’s Day, the Spread a Smile team were out and about delivering over 1,000 heart-shaped surprises to critically ill children in NHS hospitals. We delivered balloons to 14 hospitals in London and Manchester to spread the love.

With hospitals still restricting the number of visitors allowed due to COVID-19, it’s as important as ever for us to show children and young people that their loved ones are thinking of them on this day (as are we at Spread a Smile). Being able to connect children with their loved ones is even more important on special days, and we were delighted to be able to bring some joy and warmth to the wards.

Lucy Jackson, CEO of Spread a Smile said, “We are all about bringing joy and laughter to seriously ill children in hospital. Valentine’s Day gives us an opportunity to show patients that we care! We are delivering 1230 balloons to children and teenagers at 14 of our hospital partners to bring them a much-needed smile. It’s incredible to see the joy that a simple balloon can bring and it’s very special to see all the children in hospital happily clutching their heart-shaped balloon. It’s a really amazing distraction.”

The hospitals we visited were: Royal London, St Mary’s, Kings, Whittington, North Middlesex, Northwick Park, Royal Brompton, St George’s, Chelsea and Westminster, Evelina, Royal Marsden, Royal National Orthopaedic, Noah’s Ark Hospice, and the Proton Beam Therapy Centre at the Christie.

 

Our tenth hospital partner in London

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This month, we warmly welcomed all children under the care of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and their families to the Spread a Smile family. This latest partnership is the tenth major NHS London hospital that we are working with.  It marks the next milestone in our mission to bring comfort, laughter and support to seriously ill and hospitalised children and their families throughout the country.

Children at Chelsea and Westminster and West Middlesex Hospitals will be able to join our weekly virtual group hospital visits from entertainers, take part in our themed activity days, and receive our surprise treat drops (keep an eye out for Cupid on Valentine’s Day!). Families of long-term patients will also be able to book one-on-one virtual sessions with our wonderful entertainers and will receive our delivery of post-procedure treat boxes. We will be delivering these visits in collaboration with the Trust’s official charity CW+, as part of their participatory Arts in Health programme to improve the hospital experience for patients and their families.

Chelsea and Westminster NHS Foundation Trust patients will also not to have to wait too long to see one of our fairies in person as we will be starting our in-person entertainer visits in March.

To find out more about how we support our families, you can sign up to our monthly newsletter here.

Rosie Fortescue bracelets sell out

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More than 200 of Rosie Fortescue’s rainbow bracelets have been sold since the launch of our partnership with the luxury jewellery brand last summer, raising over £4,000 for Spread a Smile.

Rosie Fortescue:I chose to donate 100% of the profits of this bracelet to Spread a Smile because they are the most fantastic charity that truly make the lives of children and their families better at the most difficult times.

This generous donation will make such a difference to the work we do to bring smiles to children who are critically ill in hospital.

Thank you to Rosie, her team and everyone who bought our lovely rainbow bracelets!

Join Team Smile

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Make 2022 your year by taking on a challenge in aid of Spread a Smile.  In joining Team Smile, you will be helping to spread smiles to thousands of seriously ill and hospitalised children under the care of our NHS hospital partners.  We’ll support you all the way from sign up to race day and keep you informed about the difference you’ve made to young lives.  We’ve a host of challenges to choose from – see the full list HERE.  Alternatively if you have an individual challenge in mind, we’d love to hear from you and welcome you to the team.

If you are interested in joining Team Smile, or would like to know more about any of the events, please do get in touch at challenges@spreadasmile.org

Painting Proton Masks

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We are so proud to be able to support children and teenagers undergoing treatment at the new Proton Beam Therapy Centre at University College Hospital, London (UCLH).

The centre, which saw its first patients in December 2021, will offer world-leading proton beam therapy to patients of all ages, targeting tumours precisely while reducing the long-term side effects of treatment. 

Children and young people undergoing radiotherapy treatment for head, brain or neck cancers are required to wear a mask or mould so the treatment can be delivered as precisely as possible. This can be an incredibly frightening experience. Spread a Smile has been painting radiotherapy masks at UCLH since February 2018 and since this time, our Head of Art, Marina, has painted hundreds of masks. The masks patients wear for proton treatment are slightly different.

In December, Marina was invited into UCLH to paint her first trial m ask and we are so proud to be working in partnership with the hospital to be able to provide masks for all child and adolescent patients. 

As with all Spread a Smile’s work, each mask is completely personalized. Marina takes a full brief and brings the child’s ideas to life on their mask. The trial proton mask she painted in December, which you can see pictured here, features rainbows and butterflies

Laura Walter, Director of Services at Spread a Smile said: “All those little details are so important when it comes to painting the masks. Marina always ensures she incorporates any specific requests, that favourite colours are included for example. This gives patients as much control over their situation as possible, helping to make the experience less frightening and more positive.

“We are proud to be working with our partner UCLH to support their patients going through proton beam therapy treatment. The Play Specialists put in many hours so children can cope with their treatment effectively and being able to deliver hand-painted personalised masks helps to further reduce their anxieties. It helps to make a very clinical environment more child friendly.”

Our Impact & 3 Year Plan

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It was April 2013 when Spread a Smile made the charity’s first in-person visit to Great Ormond Street Hospital.  Since then, our magicians, fairies, musicians, artists, therapy dogs and support services have been making a profound and positive difference to the lives of thousands of critically ill children and young people under the care of our growing network of NHS hospital partners.

The importance of providing seriously ill and hospitalised children with enhanced play and entertainment has never been more important than over the last 21 months, when the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and hospital lockdowns led to extended periods of separation, isolation, increased anxieties and long monotonous days.

We were one of the first charities to adapt to online provision and did this within a month of the first lockdown.  Our digital services including virtual entertainer visits, virtual holiday and after-school clubs and Smile TV have grown and developed and, since March 2020, we have delivered interactive play, art & craft workshops and engaging entertainment to thousands of children and young people in hospital and outpatient care. Digital has become a critical and much-valued element of our service provision, complementing our in-person hospital visits, enhancing the range and diversity of our services and increasing our impact.

Please click on the link above to watch a video summary of our three year plan, which puts us on the road to national status by 2024.

We are also pleased to share our IMPACT REPORT with you today which I hope gives you an insight into the incredibly positive difference we are able to make to so many children, young people and their families.

At Spread a Smile we remain committed to delivering bespoke services that support young patients through long and difficult hospital stays, provide a distraction from pain and treatment, build self-esteem and provide rare moments of joy.

Thank you for all you have done to make this possible. We couldn’t have done any of this without you. If you have any questions, comments or ideas to support our plans, please do get in touch by emailing info@spreadasmile.org

The Smiles Say It All

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Thanks to hundreds of individual acts of kindness by you – our amazing partners, the toy industry and individuals, we’ve created positive distractions from pain and treatment, alleviated the monotony of the hospital environment and created positive memories for thousands of seriously ill children and young people under the care of our NHS hospital partners.

  • Nearly 400 children met Santa in our virtual Christmas Grotto
  • 3,500 children under the care of our NHS hospital partners received a Christmas gift
  • 425 children in outpatient care received a Smile Hamper
  • More than 1,000 chocolate treats were enjoyed by children and young people

It makes a grand total of 4,325 smiles.  None of which would have been possible without…

  • Individual supporters who donated more than 400 gifts in person or via our annual toy drive
  • The incredible support from the toy industry including Hasbro, Spin Master, Cheatwell Games, Alligator Books, The Paper Box, Hunter Price, Character Options, Staedtler, Aurora World, OTL Technologies, Playmonster, Acamar Films, Swizzels, Playmobil, Grant & Bowman, Derwent Art, LUSH, SEGA Europe and Mattel
  • Moonpig who donated 500 sacks for Santa to fill with gifts
  • Employees of Hain Daniels who donated more than 200 gifts through their Christmas Wish Tree initiative – with each gift matching a child’s likes and hobbies
  • Employees of Blackrock who created their own gift drive and collected more than 250 gifts
  • Employees of ICBC Standard Bank for gift donations via our annual toy drive
  • Employees of Masthaven Bank for donations and gift hampers plus helping us pack hundreds of Smile hampers
  • Blink for the donation of advent calendars
  • Employees of the Tulchan Group who made up more than 70 individual gift bags brimming with toys and chocolate

Onbehalf of every child, every parent and carer and all at Spread a Smile.  Thank you.

Festive Hospital Visits

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Our elves, magicians, fairies and entertainers have continued visiting children at six of our NHS hospital partners in London throughout December. We have also been running art & craft and cupcake decorating workshops as well as posting fun and engaging videos and tutorials to Smile TV.

In addition, our artists have created hundreds of artworks to adorn hospital windows, each at the request of hospital play teams or individual patients.