Spread a Smile was founded by Josephine Segal and Vanessa Crocker in 2013 after seeing the positive impact a magician’s visit had on Josephine’s then nine year old nephew, Aaron, whilst he was being treated at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH).
During his treatment Aaron became increasingly withdrawn. 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 to make them smile too but hospital regulations made this impossible. Undeterred, Josephine promised Aaron she would find a way to make it happen. After teaming up with her friend and former colleague, Vanessa Crocker, and working with GOSH to make it happen, together they founded Spread a Smile.
From those early days, word spread and demand grew. Today, seven years on, Spread a Smile organises more than 35 monthly visits across eight London hospitals and one children’s hospice. This equates to more than 10,000 personalised bedside visits per annum. In addition, with the launch of Smile TV and Smile Spaces in March 2020, the charity now offers digital entertainment for thousands of hospitalised children day and night.
In December 2016 Josephine and Vanessa’s achievements were acknowledged by Prime Minister, Theresa May, who awarded them a Points of Light award. The award recognises outstanding individual volunteers and those who continue to make a change in their community and inspire others. In 2017, Spread a Smile was awarded “Best Charity” at The Sun’s inaugural Who Cares Wins Health Awards.