Hair shaving fundraising

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Hair-shaving fundraising!

Robert Saint, the manager of the Edmonton branch of Lawsons, our corporate supporters, chose to raise money for Spread a Smile by shaving his hair off. He ran the Royal Parks Half Marathon for us last year and was inspired to find a new way to fundraise for us this summer.

His wife did the shearing, but his children were keen to lend a hand so they experimented with the clippers as well. Rob told us that having a shorn head “felt weird at first, but I’ve now got used to it and like it, so it’s staying off. In one haircut I have gone from Ian Beale to Jason Statham.” We’re sure you’ll agree that his new style really suits him!

Thank you so much Rob for your hair-raising enthusiasm that has raised a wonderful £100 for Spread a Smile.


What the Ladybird Heard

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Spread a Smile took five families of children receiving treatment at GOSH and other London hospitals to see ‘What the Ladybird Heard’ at The Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue on 25th July.

The show, based on Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks’ popular children’s book, was full of live music, puppetry and lots of audience participation, which got our families laughing and cheering! Emma Carroll, who plays Lily and the Ladybird in the play, said “It was wonderful to perform on the day our friends from Spread a Smile came to see ‘What the Ladybird Heard’! The audience was fantastic, joining in with the animal noises and singing. Thanks for visiting the Ladybird farm!”

The twenty guests of Spread a Smile loved the production. Shushma Jain, guardian to Layla, a three-year-old girl we visit at GOSH, said: “A big thank you to Spread a Smile for today! We all enjoyed ourselves. It was good to switch off: Spread a Smile organising the transport really made the trip very easy; it took so much pressure off. The kids loved the show. When Layla is not well, my mum and I spend a lot of time at the hospital with her, and my father who is retired and deaf looks after our other long-term foster child, so it was a lovely break for all five of us! They loved their goody bags too. Thank you so much!”

Thank you to Kenny Wax Family Entertainment who donated the tickets.

200 miles for Amy

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An amazing team of cyclists from RBS Cash Operations based in Maidstone and led by Simon Foster, cycled 200 miles across Kent to raise money for Spread a Smile over a week at the end of June.

Simon and his colleagues, Jon Barnes, Scott Howie, Mario Fenech and Simon Cawse, chose to support us as Simon’s 12-year-old daughter, Amy Foster, has been visited by our entertainers during her treatment for Osteosarcoma at UCLH this year.

Amy developed a severe pain in her knee earlier in 2017, and was diagnosed as having a cancerous tumour in her femur. She is receiving chemotherapy at UCLH as well as having an operation to remove part of her femur, which will be replaced by a bionic prothesis.

When her dad asked Amy which charity his cycling team should support with their epic challenge she nominated Spread a Smile. She says, “I love Spread a Smile visits as I like being active and hospital treatment is sooooo boring! I love the fairies as they are just fun and they smile so much. It really cheers me up. The magician, though, is my favourite as I couldn’t work out how he did his tricks!”

Sarah Quigley from RBS wrote on their JustGiving page: “Hospitals are scary places at the best of times and whilst Amy has been visiting the hospital this fantastic charity have been there to take her mind off things as much as possible. Simon has seen first-hand the incredible work that this charity does in bringing a smile to a sick child’s face through the toughest of times.”

Thank you so much to Simon, Jon, Scott, Mario and Simon for their fabulous team effort which has raised an astonishing £2,866, more than five times their target! And a big thank you also to Amy for nominating us!

There’s still time to donate –

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Lawsons family fun day

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Spread a Smile joined our corporate supporters Lawsons at their Family Fun Day at the South of England Showground in Ardingly, West Sussex on 16th July.

The day was a grand day out, with over a thousand Lawsons employees and their families enjoying a funfair, pony trekking, music, food and a pamper area. Spread a Smile singer Collette Spinner compered the event, introducing bands onto the stage, as well as wowing the audience with some numbers of her own. Our face painters Marina Constantinou and Emma Antoniou decorated hundreds of faces over the course of the day, transforming the children into superheroes and animals, and even beautifying a few of the adults! Spread a Smile balloon modellers Bradley and Diana Bronson made over a thousand weird and wonderful inflated creations for the guests. And our very own Magic Martin Rees spent the day amazing the crowd with close-up magic.

Lawsons, the timber, building and fencing suppliers, have been invaluable supporters to Spread a Smile, helping to fund two of our Winter Wonderland Parties, the creation of our mascot Buddy, as well as innumerable hospital visits and special events for the children and their families throughout the last two years. Paul Sexton, Managing Director of Lawsons, wanted to support the charity after seeing us in action: “The slowest clock on the planet is a hospital clock. The biggest thing you can do for anybody that is ill is make them smile and create distractions which help control pain. These guys do it in spades. I have to say I have never ever witnessed something as special as the Spread a Smile team. They are truly, truly amazing at what they do.”

Lawsons held a raffle on the day, with proceeds going to Spread a Smile.

A huge thank you to Lawsons for their ongoing support for Spread a Smile; they really have helped us brighten so many days for the children and teenagers we visit in hospital.

Debbie gets muddy

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Debbie Holmes, a 13-year-old from East Malling in Kent, took part in the Pretty Muddy 5km race in Maidstone to raise money for Spread a Smile on Sunday 9th July.

Intrepid Debbie chose to undertake the challenge with a big group of her family and friends after experiencing Spread a Smile’s magic first-hand. We first met Debbie soon after she was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer, in April 2014 while she was receiving radiotherapy treatment at UCLH. We visited her with magicians, singers and our cuddly therapy dogs. We have also invited her to several special events outside of hospital: she has seen Disney’s The Lion King, a Diversity dance show and Take That in concert, as well as attending our annual festive party with her family and friends. She loved our visits so much she decided to raise money for Spread a Smile so we could visit more children and teenagers like her.

The 5 kilometre Pretty Muddy race involved a series of obstacles and a whole lot of mud! Debbie and her teammates scrambled over an A-frame, crawled through a mud pit, slithered through muddy tunnels and slid into a pool of mud. The race was a particular challenge for Debbie as she has an internal prothesis in her leg as part of her cancer treatment. Her mum, Cheryl, said she was amazed how Debbie managed to complete the entire course unaided. Debbie was tired by the end of the race but her team of fellow runners and cheerleaders got her through. The group included: Debbie Holmes, Ashleigh Holmes, Rachel Holmes, Katie Middleton, Christie Middleton, Sandra Ayoub, Mariam Ayoub, Ellie Conran, Jodie Conran, Millie Conran, Hannah Wheat, Gemma Wheat, Sophie Wheat, Holly Owen, Karen Owen, Gemma Crome, Claire Crome, Rachel Crome, Lucy Chapman, Chris Chapman, Angela Ward, Ilenia Ward, Alice Velvick, Cheryl Velvick, and even Debbie’s teacher Kathy Barry. They had a lot of fun on the day and got thoroughly muddy! The smiles in the pictures said it all.

We are so grateful to Debbie that she took the Pretty Muddy challenge for us. So far her team ‘Mud-erific Madness 2’ has raised an amazing £1,481 – almost three times their target!

Immanuel College – School Fundraising

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Thank you to Immanuel College, Bushey, who raised money for Spread a Smile as one of their three nominated charities this academic year. The school has been working hard to raise money with the pupils masterminding a variety of different fundraising events, from a fancy dress day and a sponsored walk, to a Chanukah fair and Friday tuck sales.

The college presented all the charities – Spread a Smile, Beit Halochem and The Boys’ Clubhouse – each with a cheque for £3000, at an assembly in April. Thank you so much to the school and its pupils for all their generosity and hard work; and a big thank you to 14-year- old Immanuel pupil Lily Lisberg for nominating us to her school.

Summer Party

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Our Summer Party was a night filled with entertainment and laughter, but also some very moving stories from the special children and teenagers we visit in hospital and their families.

Varun, a 13-year-old that we visited at UCLH and GOSH, kicked off proceedings by telling us about his battle with cancer and how Spread a Smile made a difference to his time in hospital by entertaining him and taking him out on special trips to the theatre, an acting workshop and a concert. He said he found his time in hospital “very isolating”: “You feel alone and bored… wishing you had something to take your mind off your illness. Thank goodness for the Spread a Smile team who were there to help me through times like these. Without Spread a Smile my journey would have been a lot more difficult to endure.”

Co-founder Josephine Segal explained why she and Vanessa Crocker started the charity in 2013 after seeing the positive impact a magician’s visit had on her then 9-year-old nephew, Aaron, when he was treated for cancer in Great Ormond Street Hospital. She went on to describe the charity’s journey over the last four years, from small beginnings visiting GOSH once a month, to now entertaining over 3,500 children a year in four London hospitals on 12 visits every month. She introduced the now 14-year-old Aaron, the inspiration for Spread a Smile, who had us rocking in our seats as he performed the Bill Withers’ hit Lovely Day with his school friends and bandmates Alon and Lior.

Other entertainment came in the form of the internationally-acclaimed opera singer Deborah Myers who sang Somewhere from West Side Story. Britain’s Got Talent Magician Jamie Raven explained how honoured he felt on being asked to become Spread a Smile’s Patron. He then treated us to a special magic show, delivered with his distinctive flair and comic timing. Spread a Smile magicians kept us entertained throughout the evening, giving us a taste of the magic (literal and metaphorical) that they create for the courageous children and teenagers we visit in hospital. Magicians Ian Manly, Paul Megram, Daniel Reed and Martin Rees performed close-up magic, Judge wowed us with his spontaneous poems and singer Collette Spinner delighted us with several numbers during the reception.

Paul Sexton, Managing Director of Lawsons, spoke of how he had observed Spread a Smile’s effect first-hand and how that had led the firm to support Spread a Smile. He appealed to all our guests to dig deep so we can continue sprinkling that magic in hospitals: “The slowest clock on the planet is a hospital clock. The biggest thing you can do for anybody that is ill is make them smile and create distractions which help control pain. These guys do it in spades. I have to say I have never ever witnessed something as special as the Spread a Smile team. They are truly truly amazing at what they do.”

Spread a Smile Co-founder Vanessa Crocker followed by talking about our vision for the future of the charity. She spoke of how Spread a Smile’s “work is in demand and we have now been asked by each of the hospitals [we visit] to increase the frequency of our visits… and even start working in a fifth paediatric hospital from early 2018.” She appealed to our guests to give generously and help us realise our dream of helping more children and teenagers over the coming months and years.

Vanessa then introduced Parker Moss, father to 9-year-old Vanessa who suffers from neuroblastoma, a rare type of cancer that forms in the nerve tissue and mainly affects babies and young children. Parker spoke movingly of Vanessa’s long illness and how Spread a Smile entertainers have made a huge difference to his daughter during her treatment at GOSH and UCLH, making her feel at those times, despite her illness, “like the luckiest girl in the world”. He said, “It’s more than just a smile… it’s about feeling lucky and being loved… it’s a really truly important thing that Spread a Smile do”.

The night was rounded off by a film that followed members of the Spread a Smile team on hospital visits, demonstrating the charity’s transformational work and hearing testimony from the children and teenagers, their parents and the NHS staff we work with. By the end of the video there was barely a dry eye in the room.

Thanks to Varun Mahatme, Aaron Maurice, Alon Issler, Lior Solomons-Wise, Parker Moss and Paul Sexton for taking part; and to Food Story, Just Seventy, Light Fantastic, Deborah Myers, Jamie Raven, The London Marriott Regents Park, and all our amazing entertainers and volunteers for their hard work making the evening a great success.

Spread a Smile Is 4

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On Tuesday 11th April we celebrated our 4th Birthday. Our huggable mascot Buddy Bear popped in to see us and even brought us a delicious cake.

Four years ago today our co-founders Josephine Segal and Vanessa Crocker took a team of entertainers into Great Ormond Street Hospital for our very first visit. We visited four wards; haematology and oncology, the cardiac unit and a ward which treats children with renal- related conditions. The entertainers on that first visit included Spread a Smile regulars Fairy Felicity and Adam Ant.

Fairy Felicity said: “It’s been amazing watching the charity grow and develop from such humble beginnings, initially visiting only four GOSH wards once a month in the early days, and now entertaining in four hospitals several times a month with such a great team of talented performers.

“It’s been an absolute privilege visiting the kids over the last four years. Every visit gives me pause for thought, as we meet some very brave children in distressing circumstances. However, knowing that we have gone some way to alleviate their distress that day gives me a real sense of fulfilment. To make a child laugh, to help them forget for a moment that they are in a hospital or in pain, is a real joy.”

During the last four years, Vanessa and Josephine have led the growth of the charity, ensuring that we have always been able to serve our current partner hospitals to the best of our abilities before expanding into new ones. In this way, the hospitals know we are always there to help and the children have learnt to look forward to our visits as a highlight to their week. Over the years, we have formed some close bonds with the children and their families, supporting them through their difficult journeys.

Natasha Luck, Play Specialist at The Royal London Hospital, said: “I have absolutely loved every minute of working with Spread a Smile and all of their entertainers. The difference they make for both the patients and their families is incredible. The generosity they have shown The Royal London Hospital is overwhelming: I know I never have to hesitate to ask them if I need any help or support.”

Since April 2013, we have expanded our visits in GOSH, now visiting nine wards twice a month, as well as visits to University College Hospital, The Royal London Hospital, and since the start of this year, St Mary’s, Paddington. Vanessa and Josephine’s tireless commitment to the children and teenagers we visit has gained recognition from Number 10. In December 2016, Prime Minister Theresa May honoured them with a Points of Light Award, which recognises outstanding individual volunteers, people who are making a change in their community and inspiring others.

On the charity’s fourth anniversary, Vanessa said: “It’s incredible to see how Spread a Smile has grown. We are so lucky that with the help of our generous donors and supporters we are now able to visit over 3,000 children and teenagers a year. With continued support, we are looking to expand to make more monthly visits and add new hospitals to our list, so we can reach even more children and teenagers. Thank you to our wonderful supporters who make it all possible and have helped us reach our fourth birthday!”

Meet Buddy Bear

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In 2016 we launched a competition in partnership with children’s newspaper, First News, to design a new mascot to take into hospitals. The winning design, Buddy, was created by 11-year-old Caris Baughan from Warwickshire.

After many months of painstaking planning and development, the expert team at Rainbow Productions, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of mascots, who have created costumes for well-known characters such as Peppa Pig and Pingu, crafted Caris’ design into a huggable reality!

Buddy Bear, who proudly made a debut at our Glitter & Glow party in December 2016, has been a big hit with the children we meet in hospital.

We are very grateful to Lawsons who generously donated the money to have Buddy created.