News

Help spread smiles and joy this Christmas

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This Christmas, Spread a Smile will send over 1,000 personalised festive Smile Hampers and 4,000 gifts to seriously ill children in hospital and at home and to their siblings too, spreading joy when it is needed most.

Our Smile Hampers are packed full of gifts, hand-picked with each child in mind, and are delivered directly to their home or to hospital in time for Christmas. We’ll also be delivering gifts to our NHS hospital and hospice partners to be shared with children and young people on the wards, helping to bring smiles and distraction during the festive period.

To do this, we need the support of generous businesses and individuals to donate gifts and treats for our gift packages.

Can you or your company help to spread a smile this Christmas?

You can purchase gifts from our Amazon gift list which we will then send to children in hospital or pop into one of our Smile Hampers.

If your business can help, or you could put us in touch with one who might, please email the team at fundraising@spreadasmile.org We are looking for items suitable for children of all ages and need more than 4,000 small and medium sized gifts. Everything has to be brand new and we specifically looking for…

  • Gifts for teenagers, (including jewellery, water bottles, stationery, fluffy socks, beanie hats, toiletries, lip balms, crystal art sets, portable speakers and phone accessories);
  • Gifts for boys aged 7+ (such as toiletries, beanie hats, gaming stuff, headphones etc.);
  • Gifts for toddlers and babies aged three and under (books, rattles, teethers, soft and sensory toys).

For the seriously ill children and young people we support, Christmas can be a difficult time, spent in hospital away from the comforts of home. Each year Spread a Smile helps bring back the magic of Christmas.

A huge thank you to the individuals and companies who have donated gifts so far, including
Hasbro, Rainbow Designs, OTL Technology, Cheatwell Games, Aurora World, Plus Plus, Crayola, Barry M, Playmobil and Melissa and Doug.

We have lots planned this festive season to spread smiles far and wide, so please contact the team if you’d like to find out more about sponsoring any of our activities. Thank you.

Children with Cancer UK partnership

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Spread a Smile is delighted to announce an exciting new partnership with the charity Children with Cancer UK, to help improve the wellbeing of seriously ill and hospitalised children and their siblings and family members through entertainment and events.

Children with Cancer UK will be helping fund Spread a Smile’s in-person and virtual entertainer visits to seriously ill children and young people with cancer in NHS Hospitals. They will also be supporting our summer and winter parties and an annual event for families who have lost a child.

Lucy Jackson, Spread a Smile Chief Executive said of the partnership, “We are extremely grateful to Children with Cancer UK for supporting our vital work bringing joy and happiness to seriously ill children across the country.

“The Spread a Smile team of talented entertainers, including musicians, artists, magicians, singers and therapy dogs, currently supports 31 NHS hospitals and three hospice partners. Thanks to our partnership, we’ll be able to reach even more vulnerable patients and their families during some of the most difficult times of their lives.

“We are very much looking forward to working closely with the Children with Cancer UK team.”

Jo Elvin, CEO of Children with Cancer UK said: “’We are delighted to be partnering with Spread a Smile. The support they provide to children, parents and siblings whilst they are going through the unimaginable is incredibly inspiring.

“To bring smiles to the families, even on their darkest days, and support their wellbeing is a core value of Children with Cancer UK and we look forward to working together to bring more happiness to those in need.“

The partnership will launch officially on 1 November and will see Children with Cancer UK funding in-person entertainer visits to a number of Spread a Smile partner hospitals as well as virtual entertainer and art visits to children who are in hospital and at home.

Children with Cancer UK will be able to support Spread a Smile in their growth with the aim to increase their number of partners to 38 by the end of the 2023/24, then to 50 by the end of 2024/25. Currently around 50% of the children and young people Spread a Smile support are oncology patients.

Families supported by Children with Cancer UK will be included in Spread a Smile’s Christmas ‘Smile Hamper’ initiative, which sees seriously ill children and their siblings receive personalised gift boxes, delivered to them at home or in hospital and will be invited to meet Father Christmas in Spread a Smile’s virtual Santa’s Grotto. Families will also be invited to Spread a Smile’s annual Winter Party, on 13 January 2024 in Central London and beyond that, Spread a Smile very much looks forward to welcoming children supported by Children with Cancer to other family events including theatre trips and tea parties.

A very special party for our families

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Last Saturday we welcomed over 100 of children and families we support to a special Spread a Smile Party, generously hosted by our friends at Corinthia London.

It was a truly magical day out for everyone who joined us, with our guests enjoying a special visit from Father Christmas, magic, facepainting and the chance to meet Thomas the Therapy Dog, Santa’s elves and our beautiful Christmas tree fairy.

There was so much to do and see, with a delicious afternoon tea, hot chocolate, cookie decorating, bauble making, Christmas card crafts and graffiti art, nail painting and more. It really was a day to remember full of festive fun and activities.

Days out like this mean a huge amount to the families we support. We know that everyone in a family is deeply affected by the illness of a child or sibling. Spread a Smile’s outings, events and activities aim to support young patients, their parents, carers and siblings and bring moments of respite, joyful experiences and enduring memories at the most challenging of times.

As the parent of one of the children we support said, “I just wanted to say a massive thank you for our amazing experience on Saturday. It really was a wonderland, and it was so special for us to spend some one-to-one time together as her brother has been going through treatment for 2.5 years, so as you can imagine time together doing lovely things has been very little. Everyone was so welcoming and went out of their way to make her so happy.”

A big thank you to the Corinthia London for their wonderful support and for helping to make our families so welcome. This very special partnership is making a real and positive impact for our families and we can’t thank them enough for their support.

Find out more about our events and outings here.

Rosie Grace McClelland supports Spread a Smile

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We are delighted to announce that singer, actor and lifestyle influencer, Rosie Grace McClelland will be supporting Spread a Smile through some exciting initiatives over the coming months.

Rosie first shot to fame back in 2012 when she appeared on ‘The Ellen Show’, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres when she was just 5 years old. Rosie was catapulted to overnight fame along with her cousin Sophia Grace, after they performed a Nicki Minaj ‘Superbase’ rendition.

Rosie, now 17 years old, boasts over 10 years in the entertainment industry as a singer, dancer, actor, and lifestyle influencer.  In May 2022 she released her 8th Single, Hurt So Good and was recently back in LA, recording new music for an EP due to be released in 2024.

Rosie first got to know Spread a Smile earlier this year, running a bespoke virtual workshop and Q&A session for some of the young people we support. She received incredible feedback from everyone who attended with one of our NHS hospital partners saying, “We find that children and young people live through experiences by media, so having the option for online activities can make our patients feel included, especially when one of our long-term patients interacted with her favourite YouTube star in a Spread a Smile event!”

We’re looking forward to working closely with Rosie in the New Year to organise more virtual sessions and developing a partnership that will inspire and support some of the young people we reach. Alongside the virtual sessions, Rosie will be creating content especially for Spread a Smile’s 24-hour online entertainment channel, Smile TV, reaching hundreds of young people with her incredible talent.

“Rosie is a wonderful talent, full of passion and we are so grateful to her for sharing her time and energy with us and helping to spread a little bit of joy to the young people we support. At Spread a Smile, we see every day just how difficult and isolating a serious illness can be. I’ve no doubt that Rosie’s sessions will provide a wonderful and uplifting distraction and we can’t thank her enough for her support.” Lucy Jackson, Spread a Smile Chief Executive

Rosie said,I’m so honoured to have been chosen to team up with Spread a Smile charity, they are such a special organisation bringing happy opportunities to these amazingly brave children.

“This charity is one that is very close to my heart, and I feel very lucky to have already met so many children on our virtual sessions, I can’t wait to meet more inspirational children and their families and create content exclusively for them to enjoy on Smile TV.”

Follow us on social media (@spreadasmileuk on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) to be the fist to hear about Rosie’s new initiatives as they launch.

Taking on the Sahara Desert in aid of Spread a Smile

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In March 2024, Team Smile will head to Morocco for an incredible 5-day trek, covering 100km across the Sahara Desert. We spoke to Spread a Smile supporter and professional photographer, Simon Webb about why he is taking on this amazing challenge and helping to raise vital funds for our work spreading smiles to seriously ill children and young people.

How were first introduced to Spread a Smile?

“I was introduced to the charity through their CEO, Lucy Jackson. I’ve worked with Lucy for over 15 years as a photographer and was asked to do a shoot with the Spread a Smile entertainers at my studio in Camberwell. It was such a lovely day and the team were so wonderful. I found out more about the charity and what they do and was truly inspired.”

What motivated you to get involved with the charity?

“I loved working with the team and saw how amazing the work they do is. I do a lot of commercial work and it’s really nice to have the opportunity to use my skills as a photographer to give something back. I want to be able to help others in some way and this feels right. There is something lovely and really special about Spread a Smile and it’s clear that they make such a huge difference to so many people.”

What made you sign up for the Sahara Desert trek in aid of Spread a Smile?

“I love the desert – it’s so vast and open and it’s a wonderful place to go and be at one with yourself. Living in the London with all the noise and craziness, it’s good to find a place and time to think and reflect. I saw the trek mentioned on Instagram and I knew I wanted to do it. Life and work are always so busy and full and I instantly felt like it was what I needed to do – to support this wonderful charity and find space for myself. It feels like such an exciting adventure and it reminded me of all the stuff I loved doing when I was a boy – hiking, caving, being outdoors all the time – I felt a pull to get out there in the wild again. Being able to support an amazing charity like Spread a Smile at the same time makes the experience complete.”

What are you looking forward to the most?

“I’m looking forward to being away from my computer and phone (although naturally I’ll take the opportunity to capture some beautiful pictures). I’m excited to meet new people and have a whole new adventure. I’m ready for the challenge and looking forward to pushing myself. I’m already doing some outward-bound training and getting into that world a bit more. It’s going to be fun and so rewarding.

“I’m so pleased to be raising vital funds for Spread a Smile to help the families they support. To be able to help children who are seriously ill in hospital is really motivating. I can’t think of a better reason for doing it.”

What would you say to someone else thinking about signing up for the trek?

“Do it! It will be rewarding for you as an individual and also for all of the families you’ll be supporting. It’ll be such an adventure bringing positivity and happiness to everyone involved.”

Inspired by Simon? Join us from Saturday 2 March – Saturday 9 March 2024 for this incredible trek across the Sahara Desert in aid of Spread a Smile. Find the full itinerary and a short film here, or contact Rimi at fundraising@spreadasmile.org to join Team Smile today.

You can check out Simon’s photography skills here!

Meet our supporters extraordinaire

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As a charity, Spread a Smile doesn’t receive any government funding and we are therefore extremely grateful to every single donor, fundraiser and corporate supporter who helps to fund out vital work.

Two such amazing people are Lee McDowell and Danny Imray who have supported Spread a Smile for a number of years, helping to raise thousands of pounds and much needed awareness for Spread a Smile.

Close friends for over 20 years, Lee and Danny are both successful businessmen within the construction industry and insurance industry respectively. We spoke to Lee and Danny about how they came to support Spread a Smile and what motivates them.

“We were first introduced to Spread a Smile by Lee’s friend Rob Threadgold who is also Chair of the Spread a Smile Business Committee. We were looking for a children’s charity to support as part of an event we were organising and found Spread a Smile to be the perfect fit. We hosted a football event at Billericay Football Club, bringing together 20 teams for an exciting 5-a-side tournament. The day was a great success, concluding with a lively gathering and a disco for all participants. It was great to have Spread a Smile as part of it and since then, we’ve been committed to doing what we can to support this brilliant charity.

“We’ve seen first-hand the positive impact that Spread a Smile has on the lives of the families they support. Knowing that our fundraising is helping to achieve that is incredibly rewarding. The dedication and effort put in by everyone at Spread a Smile is truly inspiring – something we find even more meaningful being parents ourselves. We are regularly kept up to date on the charity’s progress which helps motivate us and drives us to continue to do what we can do to help.

“Each year we host two annual events: a football day and a golf day, both aimed at raising awareness and funds for Spread a Smile. Additionally, a team of volunteers from Lee’s company LMAC Group generously gives up their time to help wrap and deliver Christmas gifts to seriously ill children and their siblings.

“Over the past three years, we’ve successfully raised over £123,427 for Spread a Smile, something we are extremely proud of. Our goal is to continue to build on this success and reach our target of £500,000 for the charity and to help spread even more smiles across the country.

“We feel proud to work with and support such a brilliant cause. The work they do is truly remarkable and knowing we are helping to raise essential funds to support numerous families during challenging times of their lives, is deeply fulfilling. Within our business, we have a unique platform to make a difference, and supporting Spread a Smile holds a special place in our hearts as it unites people and creates a sense of community. It is a privilege to be part of such a special family.”

It’s thanks to people like Lee and Danny that Spread a Smile is able to continue its work spreading joy and happiness to seriously ill children, young people and their families up and down the country. We’d like to say a huge thank you to them and everyone at LMAC Group for their incredible support. As Lucy Jackson, Spread a Smile Chief Executive said, “Lee and Danny are an inspiration to us all and it is an absolute pleasure to have them as part of our Spread a Smile family. We are so grateful for all that they do to support Spread a Smile and our families, bringing such kindness and dedication to everything they do. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”

Announcing two new NHS hospital partners

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Spread a Smile today announces its latest hospital partner, Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust which cares for people in south west London and north east Surrey. Spread a Smile will work closely with two of its hospitals, Epsom Hospital and Queen Mary’s Hospital for Children. Both sites treat seriously ill children and young people receiving treatment for a range of everyday and highly complex and specialist conditions and illnesses. These patients, along with their families are invited to join the Spread a Smile family and benefit from their services.

Chloe Smith, Ward Manager – Casey Ward, Epsom Hospital said of the partnership, “Currently on Casey Ward there are 16 children of all ages that are feeling poorly and the look on the children’s faces when Spread a Smile visits the ward is so special, it is truly priceless. It gives the children and their families a lift and offers some positivity during these difficult times.”

Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust joins 29 other major and speciality NHS hospitals and three hospice partners already supported by Spread a Smile. The Spread a Smile team of talented entertainers, including musicians, artists, magicians and therapy dogs, will spend quality time with patients in hospital through one-to-one visits and group sessions. Patients and their families will also be able to access virtual online events and activity sessions, including art clubs, balloon modelling, music lessons and more, enabling the charity to see and support as many people as possible. All with the aim of spreading hundreds of smiles and a lot of happiness to children undergoing treatment for serious illness and their families.

Children at both Epsom Hospital and Queen Mary’s Hospital for Children will also be able to join special themed virtual activity days, via iPad, celebrating seasonal occasions such as Christmas, benefit from regular treat drops and enjoy entertainer visits scheduled throughout the year, all giving seriously ill children and their families the opportunity to join in with fun and exciting experiences that they may otherwise not have access to.

Lucy Jackson, Spread a Smile Chief Executive added, “We are delighted to be working with Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust to provide support for children and young people at both Epsom Hospital and Queen Mary’s Hospital for Children. During our monthly in-person visits to each hospital, our entertainers will be spreading smiles around the wards to as many seriously ill children and their families as possible. We are looking forward to supporting the hospital teams to bring a much needed distraction to patients under their care.”

To find out more about our work and hospital / hospice partners, please click here.

Impact Report 2023

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We are delighted to share Spread a Smile’s 2023 Impact Report.

The data in this report has been gathered from our annual survey and testimonials from healthcare professionals and families, many of whom have spent weeks, months or even years in hospital and have experienced the positive difference our unique entertainment has made to their child and how it feels to see them smile and laugh again.

We are incredibly proud of the overwhelmingly positive feedback we received this year and we hope you’ll enjoy reading more about our impact, none of which would be possible without your support.

Results from the survey enable us to better understand the positive difference we make to seriously ill children, teenagers and their families and help us continue to provide the unique and personalised support that Spread a Smile has become known for.

Thank you for your generosity and ongoing belief in our work. It really means so much to us.

You can read the Impact Report here.

Access Self Storage Christmas gift drive

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Over the last 10 years, Access Self Storage has collected over 18,500 children’s toys for charity through their annual Christmas campaign and this year, Spread a Smile is delighted to be their nominated charity.

Access Self Storage is encouraging local residents and customers to donate brand new and unwrapped toys and gifts at one of stores or storage locations around the country. The gifts will then be collated and sent to Spread a Smile HQ where our elves will deliver them to thousands of seriously ill children and young people either at home, hospital or via our virtual Christmas grotto

Jan Albert Fourie, Head of Operations at Access Self Storage commented, “Our stores work closely with their local communities and each year build upon this campaign.  We hope that this 10th anniversary year will enable us to smash the 20,000 donated toys ceiling, and that children in hospital across the UK will be treated to a gift this year from our Christmas collection.  If all our customers and our local communities get behind the campaign it will make a huge difference.”

Staff have already begun collecting toys and people are invited to bring their toy & gift donations in to store between 13th November – 11th December, ahead of the charity collection and distribution in time for Christmas.

Lucy Jackson, Chief Executive Spread a Smile said of the partnership, “Partnering with Access Self Storage, for the first time, for its toy collection will mean we can spread even more magic this Christmas.  It’s a precious time of year and we know the Santa visits create unique and lasting memories.  The support of the Access Self Storage teams, customers and their communities is truly priceless.”

We are so grateful to everyone at Access Self Storage and all of their customers for their brilliant support this Christmas. You can find a list of stores here.

A magic Harry Potter LEGO event

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Our family events and outings are an important part of Spread a Smile’s work which provide families of seriously ill children with the opportunity to enjoy some special time together and escape the worries of illness and treatment – even if just for a day.

Last month, we were joined by an incredible 22 families for two amazing, fun and magic filled Harry Potter themed LEGO® workshops.

The workshops, hosted by our friends at the LEGO Group, was a great opportunity to get creative. Upon arrival, everyone was ‘sorted’ into their houses, before each group got stuck into a variety of Harry Potter themed activities, including wand making. making their own magic wand to take home with them.

There was so much going on for our families to enjoy including free play LEGO building, arts and crafts, a construction of Diagon Alley and even a game of ‘find Dobby’s socks!’

“We’re so proud to be able to be able to provide such interesting and engaging days out for the families we support. I’ve seen first hand how much enjoyment everyone gets, from being their with parents and siblings and doing something fun together. It really does make everyone smile.” Natalie Donaldson, Spread a Smile Head of Family Events

To find out more about our family outings and events, please take a look here.