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:

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.

Dancing along with Craig David

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Our Spread a Smile team took seven oncology patients from University College London Hospital to an epic night of music and dancing at the Craig David concert at the O2 Arena. (Those who remember 90s garage fondly will be able to appreciate what an incredible night it was for all who attended!)

Thanks to our lovely friends at Rays of Sunshine who supplied the tickets for our young people, as we were able to bring along their friends and family to enjoy the show together. We were also right in the heart of the action, with amazing seats!

A huge thank you is also due to Craig and his team who donated signed and personalised merchandise to those who attended, to go along with the amazing sing-song.

Craig was also kind enough to engage with us after the event on Instagram, saying, ‘Love that you all had a great time. I enjoyed signing the tees at home before the show, putting all my love in to them so they would be felt in the heart when worn.

Those who attended will surely remember this night for a very long time.

A big day out at The Lion King

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Hakuna Matata!

We were delighted to be able to bring 55 people from 14 families to the West End to see The Lion King at the magical Lyceum Theatre, on Thursday, the 28th of April. Not only were the children treated like VIPs in the Disney Ambassador Lounge, but we also brought some of our own magicians and entertainers to revel in the experience.

To be able to provide a night to remember for critically-ill children and their families, immersing in the majesty and mysticism of the show, made the day a truly special one.

Being able to bring the children and also their families was so important, as it allows both to experience some normalcy and time together, outside of a hospital environment. The day also provided a welcome and necessary distraction for many families from the intense and serious treatments that many of the children are going through.

On top of the show, we also had fairies, face painting, animal balloon making, and goodie bags to go home with!

Charity football tournament scores £8,000

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Last Tuesday, 11 teams comprised of our wonderful supporters and partners came together for a friendly 5-a-side football tournament.

Our tournament took over the Castlehaven Community pitches in Camden as teams battled it out for the Plate and the Cup. The Teams came from Enra Finance, ICBC Standard Bank, LMAC Group, Opticore IT, CMS Distribution, Canary Wharf Contractors, Hamilton Barnes, and Uncommon.

Congratulations to the winners of the plate, Canary Wharf Contractors, and of the Cup, LMAC Group! Even more importantly, we raised over £8,000 to spread smiles to children in hospital.

Also, a huge thank you to both LMAC Group and Canary Wharf Contractors for generously sponsoring the event.

The Easter Bunny delivers to over 2,000 children

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While Easter isn’t all about chocolate, it’s definitely the best part!

Thanks to the incredible generosity of our donors, we delivered over 2,700 easter eggs to hospitalised children across our NHS partners in the lead up to Easter weekend.

Our Spread a Smile team also hosted virtual meet and greets with the Easter Bunny, and children were able to get creative with Easter wreath making classes.

It was an extra busy week, which required a tremendous amount of effort and care from all involved, for which we are hugely grateful. Being able to bring joy and levity to children on a holiday which can be an especially hard time for young people in hospital, made all of the challenges worth it.

We were able to exceed our target of delivered eggs thanks to our wonderful supporters, including All Aboard, Enra Finance, Bregal Milestone, Binfield Road Surgery, E Imagination Store, Little Learners UK, and Chancellor’s School.

An extra special thank you goes to Mars UK, who donated over 1,500 Easter Eggs, and His Church Charity who supported us with the logistics of the massive delivery!