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New weekend visits to GOSH

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Weekends often mean much quieter wards and less distraction and activities available for seriously ill children and young people receiving treatment in hospital. Time can go very slowly, particularly for those spending time in isolation in their own room.

Which is why Spread a Smile recently started weekend visits to patients at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH).

Laura Walter, Director of Services for Spread a Smile said, “We are so excited to now be offering a monthly Saturday visit at GOSH. We know from speaking to families that it can be difficult to pass the time in hospital over the weekends, and the days can seem long and monotonous. Weekends can also be an added challenge for families, who are torn between home and hospital. At Spread a Smile, we want to provide as many play opportunities to children and young people as possible, and we recognise that play doesn’t stop at the weekend.”

For September, Spread a Smile Visit Manager Debbie, along with Sar and her guitar worked closely with the GOSH Play Team to visit some of the long term babies and toddlers on the wards, bringing  music, instruments and song. It was lovely to receive some fantastic feedback after the visit from staff and parents of patients saying how beneficial and much appreciated the interactions were.

Each month, the visit will focus on a different theme, bringing a variety of exciting activities and sessions over the weekends, with a special LEGO play visit following in October.

Thank you to our generous donors and supporters for enabling us to continue our vital work supporting seriously ill children and their families when they need it most.


10 years partnership with GOSH

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Spread a Smile’s partnership with Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) dates back to when Josephine Segal and Vanessa Crocker founded Spread a Smile 10 years ago.

In 2013, Josephine’s young nephew, Aaron, was receiving treatment at GOSH. After noticing that Aaron was becoming increasingly withdrawn, she arranged for a magician to visit. 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 and Josephine promised Aaron she would find a way to make it happen.  Josephine teamed up with friend and former colleague Vanessa Crocker and working closely with GOSH, they founded Spread a Smile.

Since then, the Spread a Smile has continued to work closely with the team at GOSH to spread smiles to their patients, providing regular in person entertainer visits, online sessions, treat drops and much more.

Spread a Smile Sensory Boxes

Today we are proud to visit the hospital twice a week providing support across all in patient wards including the three paediatric intensive care units at the hospital: Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU), Paediatric Intensive Care (PICU) and Cardiac Intensive Care (CICU) as well as other wards such as oncology day care, outpatients and pre-op.

We spoke to Jamie Wilcox, Head of Volunteer Services at GOSH about our important work supporting children and young people under the GOSH’s care.

“As the Trust lead for volunteering and visiting organisations, patient parties and other entertainment, the inspirational co-founders of Spread a Smile, Josephine and Vanessa, came to meet me back in the early days of the organisation’s life.

“Over the past 10 years I have watched a small and highly passionate team of volunteers create and grow an idea into a large, fully-staffed, well-governed, slick charity, serving a number of hospitals and providing a much-needed service.

“I can’t tell you how many times GOSH staff have commented on how important it has been to have weekly visits from highly skilled professional entertainers. Not only does it have a direct impact on the patients and families, but having entertainers in the hospital brightens the wards, lifts staff spirits, helps them with anxious patients and gives them an opportunity to smile.

Spread a Smile Team at GOSH over Christmas

“We have seen how Spread a Smile entertainers can relax a patient, help them feel that little bit better on a tough day, be a wonderful distraction from a procedure or being in pain. The entertainers spend considerable 

time with each patient, adapting to their needs and expectations – whether that be a quiet song with some fairies, an upbeat interactive performance from a magician, doing face painting, or delivering a special poem created right there on the spot. This wonderful organisation has such a diverse and varied depth of talent it can accommodate any patient of any age and help take them away from the clinical environment for a moment of their day.

“There is no other organisation in the hospital that provides a service so professionally and regularly. We are proud to have it as one of our key partners.”

10 years of spreading smiles

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10 years ago today, Josephine Segal and Vanessa Crocker co-founded Spread a Smile, and what a 10 years it’s been!

We have grown considerably since we started spreading smiles in our first hospital, Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), and today we work in partnership with 25 NHS hospitals and 2 hospices across the UK. We are extremely proud to work alongside and provide important support to the incredible teams who care for seriously ill children and young people on a daily basis.

“Every time we hear a child we are caring for giggle and laugh along with the Spread a Smile entertainers, it is huge. Knowing that for a brief period they can just be children brings a smile to our faces and it makes the tough times that bit easier.” Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialists, Miriam Sager and Tenneh Koroma, Northwick Park Hospital

The families we support are at the heart of everything we do. During 2022/23, we visited over 8,500 hospital bedsides and made over 1,800 virtual visits, spreading smiles and laughter to many thousands of patients, their siblings and family members.

“We appreciate you so, so much. In hospital, out of hospital, at home, via zoom, for siblings and through lockdown. I really don’t know what my children would’ve done without you – making cakes, paintings and magic shows. You are a real true blessing. The summer party this year was a first out of hospital and I still talk about it to this day!” Parent

As we head into 2023/24, our aim is to reach even more children in even more hospitals across the country, expanding our reach and spreading smiles where they are needed most. We couldn’t do that without our entertainers, service and support team, fundraisers, trustees and the amazing donors and organisations who make everything we do possible.

“Thank you to everyone who has been there for Spread a Smile and the families we support over the last 10 years, helping us to grow, develop and bring so much joy during some of the darkest times. We couldn’t have done it without our dedicated office team, our wonderfully talented entertainers, our brilliant trustees and of course our generous supporters”.  Lucy Jackson, Spread a Smile Chief Executive

Happy Birthday Spread a Smile and here’s to the next 10 years and beyond!