Posts Tagged :


Bristol radiotherapy mask painting workshop

780 400 Susie

Spread a Smile delivers some incredible art initiatives for children and young people across our NHS hospital partners, including art workshops which support creativity and distraction and bespoke murals which enrich hospital wards and windows, helping to make the hospital environment more welcoming.

Another important part of the charity’s art programme is the personalisation of radiotherapy masks for children and teenagers going through treatment for brain, head and neck cancer.

The programme is delivered by Spread a Smile’s Head of Art, Marina, who works closely with patients preparing for radiotherapy treatment to find out their interests and how they would like their masks decorated. Sometimes a patient draws their own sketch and then Marina will take the ideas and create a bespoke and individual decoration for the mask. The process helps to make the mask less frightening, and experience shows that the patient often becomes very proud of their mask.

Last month Marina visited Spread a Smile’s NHS hospital partner Bristol Royal Children’s Hospital to deliver a special radiotherapy mask training workshop for oncology play specialists from the hospital. The aim was to share our skills and understanding of this important activity with the team at Bristol to enable to them to support patients under their care with their designs.

Each attendee came with their own radiotherapy mask and Marina shared different techniques and ideas for painting the masks using special posca pens. Everyone chose their own design and painted their own mask, to experience the process for themselves, before engaging in a useful discussion about how the masks and painting can be used as a preparation tool for patients needing the masks, helping to make them less worrying.

Britney Wookey, Oncology Play Specialist at Bristol Royal Children’s Hospital took part in the workshop saying, “It’s been long awaited for us to be able to paint radiotherapy masks and thanks to Spread a smile our patients will be offered to help design and paint their mask if they wish. Radiotherapy can be a scary treatment for a child at first but being able to decorate their mask so it is unique to them will give them a sense of control and choice. We now have band new kit gifted by spread a smile and their lovely artist, Marina, taught us some of her amazing art skills. Now we can’t wait to bring our patient’s ideas to life!”

Spread a Smile is proud of this bespoke area of work which reaches and supports young cancer patients during one of the most terrifying times of their lives. As one Mum said, “My son didn’t mind wearing his mask once it was painted and enjoyed talking with other children about what they had on their masks. He was so proud to show it to people. We now have it home and it is a prized possession on his desk which he proudly shows to everyone who comes in. His mask was his protection, and he was proud of what he had been through.”

To find out more about Spread a Smile’s services, please click here.

Children with Cancer UK partnership

780 400 Susie

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.

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

585 300 Susie

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and a time to highlight the impact cancer has on children, young people and their families.

Each year, Spread a Smile’s team of therapeutic entertainers support hundreds of children, young people and their families, battling all kinds of serious illnesses. Cancer is one of them.

Around 12 children and young people in the UK will find out the devastating news that they have cancer every day, which marks the beginning of a difficult path navigating hospital admissions, invasive treatments, pain and horrible side effects, and ongoing worry and uncertainty.

Spread a Smile’s mission is to be there for as many young people and their families as possible, bringing joy, fun, laughter, distraction, and friendship during some of the most difficult times. Young people like Hannah who in 2022 was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare type of soft tissue sarcoma (cancer).

Andrea, Hannah’s Mum said, “We discovered Spread a Smile whilst waiting for proton beam therapy in the hospital playroom. There was a notice on the wall saying that Spread a Smile would be visiting with a therapy dog, so we asked to change Hannah’s treatment time to coincide with their visit. 

“We met Laura from the charity who explained what Spread a Smile does and how they could support Hannah. Laura was so kind, asking Hannah what she was interested in and listening to her and what she had to say. We realised that Hannah really enjoyed art and so she started weekly art classes in hospital with Abi, one of the Spread a Smile artists. Hannah also loved meeting the magicians and therapy dogs – Buddy, Harry, Thomas and Choco!

“It was such a good thing for both of us – throwing balls for the dogs, having cuddles, learning magic tricks and creating something in art. Hannah would become very poorly whilst on chemotherapy, so we weren’t allowed home at weekends and spent six weeks away from home and family in London. Meeting Spread a Smile would break up the week and give Hannah (and me) so many moments of laughter, happiness and enjoyment.  

“Instead of just turning up at the exact time for our appointments, we would arrive at hospital first thing for when Spread a Smile arrived, so we could spend as much time as possible with them. Hannah didn’t want to miss a thing! It gave her a sense of purpose and meant a huge amount to both of us.

“Spread a Smile also invited us on an outing to afternoon tea at Mildreds restaurant in London – which was brilliant. It was a chance for us to have a day out together, in amongst all the treatment and hospital stuff. We were able to relax and breathe for a while.”

“Since coming home, we are so lucky that Hannah has been able to continue her art classes every other week over Zoom. The classes are a way of her being with other people – friends now – who don’t treat her differently because of her illness. She is Hannah the person, not the illness. She looks forward to the sessions as she is listened to and valued. She has choices and independence which is hugely important when your life feels like it’s controlled by something like cancer.

“Spread a Smile has made a huge difference to Hannah, making life just a bit more manageable.”

Thank you to everyone who makes the work we do spreading smiles to young people like Hannah possible. Click here to find out more about our work across the UK.

Please get in touch if you would like to access our services here.