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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 After noticing that Aaron was becoming increasingly withdrawn, she arranged for a magician to visit.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!

Meet Magic Nick

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Meet Nick, the Magician, aka ‘Magic Nick’ and our newest recruit to the Spread a Smile team of entertainers.

Nick became interested in magic from a young age, sharing his natural talent for all things magic with family and friends at every opportunity. He is now a full-time Magician and we spoke to Nick about why he decided to use his skills to help spread smiles to some of the seriously ill children and young people we support.

“My journey with Spread a Smile started because of a personal connection. I have two nephews, both of whom spend time in and out of hospital, including Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH).

“It was my youngest nephew’s second birthday during one hospital visit to GOSH and knowing this, one of the nurses arranged for a virtual visit with a Spread a Smile Fairy. The session was like pure magic. For 30 minutes, the clinical hospital room felt like a space in which we could celebrate. The sounds of the machines faded into the background and instead the room was filled with songs, cheer and most importantly, laughter.

“Not long after that Spread a Smile visited my nephew in person, and I was delighted to see it was a magician who came to visit. My nephew absolutely loved it and so did his older brother.

“For the boys’ Mum, it was a welcome change from the medical side of hospital. Seeing your child unwell is difficult for any parent and as their Uncle, I found it extremely challenging. You feel helpless. So when someone like Spread a Smile visits whose only job is to bring joy and laughter, it is incredible. You can escape, even if it’s just for a short time and you’re reminded how to be a child again.

“From that moment I knew I had to get involved with Spread a Smile as a Magician and I am so proud to now have the opportunity to join the team and go into hospitals to help make children laugh when they really need it. It is some of the most rewarding work I have ever done – leaving a visit and hearing the heartfelt thanks from a parent, guardian or the child themselves. There is nothing like it and I feel privileged to be able to help in some way.”

Please help us continue our vital work spreading smiles to children in hospital by donating today. Thank you. 

Our work, our impact

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Spread a Smile currently works with 25 NHS hospital partners and two hospices to support seriously ill children and young people under their care. To understand more about our impact of our work, we spoke to Tina Halton, Play Service Team Lead at St Mary’s Hospital, London who we have been supporting since 2014.

Tina said: “Spread a Smile have a marvellous ability to make the staff smile, without compromising on their total commitment to making each child feel special. For example, the positive calming effect of the therapy dog visits on everyone is clear to see. Thomas and Harry (dogs) stop to ‘say’ hello to everyone from the consultants to the cleaners and you can see the staff continue with their day a little bit happier after a stroke. This sense of calm filters through and the staff love to share stories of their own pets with the families who can often be seen getting out photos of their pets and telling stories. Everyone love the visit days. It makes their day calmer and helps them do the medical/nursing roles whilst the children are entertained.

“Spread a Smile’s impact on the patients cannot be underestimated. Their entertainers are carefully chosen with care and it shows. They are the best of the best at what they do. By that I mean they are abundantly talented but most important are the subtleties of their interactions with each patient. Being able to engage and impress a teenager who’s having a terrible time, for a few quiet moments in a magic trick or capturing the mood on intensive care to sing a calm song to a baby who would otherwise be listening to the beeps on a machine is worth its weight in gold.

“Without Spread a Smile, the wards wouldn’t be quite so bright! Funding in the NHS is stretched so although we still try to make it as fun and nice as we can for the families, in reality, Marina’s window art and hospital murals bring a new life and positivity to an often-overlooked space. 

“On the days Spread a Smile don’t visit the wards, we still create fun for the kids, but it’s not the same as having a new entertainer visit or a surprise delivery of red heart Valentine’s Day balloons. These things remind the families that they haven’t been forgotten and the little moment of attention brings fresh smiles. The kids see us all the time so the novelty wears off! We would all be sad not to see a fresh smiling face. 

“I’ve seen Spread a Smile grow in both size and scope, but it hasn’t lost its heart at the core. The range of entertainment and events continue to be unique to Spread a Smile, but all possess the same personal touch. The hospital programme is expertly planned and delivered by people who understand the healthcare field well and really care. What they do appears effortless but in fact takes a lot of effort and dedication. Love goes into every virtual session, gift drop and visit. This is the magic. Nothing is too much – if they can make it happen, they will! 

“As Spread a Smile implements changes, they have always been focused first and foremost on the child. We know that safeguarding, safety and infection control is always a top priority and never an afterthought. Spread a Smile has confidently risen to the challenges of the last couple of years. Working alongside acute hospital trusts is never an easy task and none of us could plan for the impact this time has had on children in hospital. The adaptability and consistency of Spread a Smile throughout the pandemic and beyond proves that they are versatile and without a doubt one of our most reliable support. We moved fluidly alongside them as we all navigated the crazy hospital world during this time. It is exciting to be a part of what Spread a Smile does next.

“One of my most memorable moments of working with Spread a Smile was during a session with a poorly young girl with additional needs. She was in an isolation room as she had a low immune system so wasn’t allowed visitors. She had begun feeling very unwell and her Mum, who was staying by her bedside, was completely exhausted. The little girl joined a virtual session with Makaton (expertly aimed right at her level) and the Spread a Smile team got her to join in the group session. 

She laughed for the first time in days and her Mum took a video to send to her Dad of her eagerly signing back to the magician. 

“Unfortunately, our hospital Wi-Fi cut out towards the end of one of the tricks and she was in tears for missing it. A quick phone call to Spread a Smile and they arranged for the child to have a 1:1 mini session with some magic just for her. She was delighted, as was her very tired Mum. She guessed the colours in the trick and waved her hand at the screen to make things appear, it was just right!

“Sadly, this little girl was very poorly and passed away not long after this session. I feel confident that the video and memories of the smiles during this precious moment are priceless for the family.”

Please donate to help us continue our vital work supporting hospitals like St Mary’s and their patients. Thank you.

Easter egg-xtravaganza

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Each year, we spread a little joy to children in hospital during the Easter holidays by collecting and sending out Easter eggs to all 27 of our NHS hospital and hospice partners.

The eggs are kindly donated to us by our supporters purchasing eggs from our Amazon wish list and also generous companies either collecting eggs from staff or funding larger quantities of eggs.

Thanks to this support, we’ll send out over 3,000 eggs to be distributed to seriously ill children. It’s a huge task organising, packaging up and distributing so many eggs.

“Easter holidays spent in hospital when other children are out enjoying Springtime can be really challenging for young people on the wards. Receiving an Easter egg from Spread a Smile can make such a difference. It helps make the children feel included and special, bringing Easter fun into hospital so they don’t miss out.”

For a child stuck in hospital or hospice over the Easter weekend, receiving an egg can really help to spread some joy and springtime cheer. We have also planned a brilliant week of virtual Easter themed sessions for the children we support and their siblings. From biscuit decorating, to Easter art and a live session with Zoo2U, we hope to spread as many smiles as possible to families up and down the country.

We’d like to say a huge thank you to all of the individuals who generously bought eggs from our list and the following companies who have helped make our Easter initiatives possible including:

  • Enra who made a generous donation which not only enabled us to buy eggs and also fund additional Easter holiday activities;
  • WUKPG who made a considerable donation;
  • Uncommon and their clients for collecting and sourcing loads of eggs;
  • Also our friends at Downing LLP, TritonExec, BRE Group, ICAB, Koda Staff, Totes, Fitzgerald House, Little Learners, Chancellor’s School and Handyman Ltd for their kind donations.

Happy Easter to you all!

Northwick Park Hospital

Partner Focus – Northwick Park Hospital

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Spread a Smile has been supporting Northwick Park NHS Hospital since August 2021 through our monthly in person visits to children and young people on the ward and oncology clinic. Patients are also welcome to join any of our online services including weekly group sessions and half-term activities and when needed, we organise special, bespoke visits for individual oncology patients.

For Children’s Mental Health Week, we spoke to Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialists Miriam Sager and Tenneh Koroma about the role of Spread a Smile at the hospital and the impact on positive mental health and wellbeing for the children, young people and staff on the ward and clinic.

When did you first find out about Spread a Smile?

“I first found out about Spread a Smile and the great work they do whilst working for Great Ormond Street Hospital many years ago. Forwarding on a few years, following a chance encounter with the Spread a Smile’s CEO Lucy Jackson, a new link and partnership was forged between the charity and Northwick Park Hospital.” (Miriam)

What impact does Spread a Smile have on the hospital staff and patients?

“Spread a Smile makes an impact on everyone they meet on the wards. The families are always so grateful for everything they do. Whether Spread a Smile attends and support in clinic, initiates play on the ward or gives online classes and demonstrations to families at home, the patients and their families are always re-energised and love seeing the happiness and laughter in the children’s faces.

“For staff on the paediatric wards, the impact of Spread a Smile is hugely positive and uplifting in spirit. They bring so much light and happiness with them and we are lifted seeing the excitement from the patients and how at ease the parents and wider families become. I’m pretty sure there are more requests for photos from staff than patients!

“During the most difficult times post Covid, when restrictions on visitors were still in place, the Spread a Smile visits played an even more important role. They filled such a huge gap and enlightened the ward and clinic.”

What would it be like if Spread a Smile wasn’t there?

“The clinics would be far more clinical, boring and less interactive and fun without Spread a Smile. We don’t have dedicated play specialists most of the time with our patients, so Spread a Smile helps fill the gap for us and allows the clinic and clinical treatments such as chemotherapy, infusions and transfusions to be given in a fun, joyous environment, full of silliness, happiness and giggles. 

Welcoming the wonderful Spread a Smile team, especially after Covid has been exactly what we needed.”

Tell us about a memorable Spread a Smile moment.

“There are so many! We initially started involving Spread a Smile to support us and help elaborate the celebrations for children finishing treatment and ringing the ‘End Of Treatment Bell’. The first child was a little 4-year-old girl who was extremely shy. She never spoke to us during treatment, always looking at her mum to speak for her.  

“On this special day Spread a Smile’s Fairy Ellie joined the celebration, singing songs from Frozen. Magician Ian was also there doing wonderful magic tricks and balloon modelling. All of a sudden, this shy little girl came to life! She started engaging with everyone, ringing the bell so loudly and proudly that there wasn’t a dry eye in the clinic. Pure happiness was shared all around.

“Another little boy we look after, was often very unwell after his chemotherapy and spent long periods of time in the hospital. This little boy was at his happiest and most content playing with dolls in his room. His Dad received a call from Spread a Smile to offer him a last-minute cancellation ticket to go and see Frozen in the West End. The Dad didn’t tell him where he was going until they were in the taxi for fear of him being too unwell to go.

“When they returned, the pure joy and excitement on the little boy’s face was incredible. Seeing that and hearing his recollection of his outing, the Frozen cast, the trip to a musical, was truly emotional and heart-warming. It made all of our day.

We also had a beautiful 12-year-old young lady who was towards end of life and had spent a lot of time in hospital. Her mobility and eyesight had deteriorated but, we still wanted to do something special for her. One phone call to Spread a Smile and we were able to welcome two beautiful Spread a Smile entertainers who used touch to gently massage her arms, whilst she sang Disney songs with them. Together they created a special video memory moment that the parents can treasure forever.”

What makes you smile?

“We smile just working with these wonderful, brave children and their families who are going through such tough cancer journeys. 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.”

Please help us continue our vital work spreading smiles to children in hospital by donating today. Thank you. 

High Atlas Mountains Morocco

Mount Toubkal Trek 2023

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This tough but incredibly rewarding challenge combines the unforgettable scenery of the High Atlas Mountains with the splendour and colour of Marrakech. You will find yourself climbing and scrambling over the huge boulders and rocks of northern Africa’s tallest peak – Jebel Toubkal, standing at a whopping 4,167m.

It is an experience not to be missed and as part of the trek, you will…

  • Experience the unforgettable mountain scenery and spectacular views
  • Tackle daunting peaks dotted with Berber villages
  • Summit Jebel Toubkal, Morocco’s highest mountain
  • Push yourself mentally and physically at high altitude
  • Get lost in the colourful souks of mystical Marrakech

High Atlas Mountains Morocco“There is nothing more inspiring than the view from the high Atlas Mountains. It can make you believe if you can do this you can do anything.”

By joining our team of intrepid explorers and fundraising for us, you’ll be helping to bring joy and laughter to seriously ill children and young people during one of the most difficult times of their lives.

To secure one of our limited places or with any queries, please email Amanda to sign up today.


Event date: Tuesday 16th May – Sunday 21st May 2023

Minimum fundraising: £850

Expedition costs: £1,055 (Direct to Charity Challenge our trek Partners)

What’s included? International flights to and from the UK, accomodation, drinking water and 3 meals a day included, full back up support. Full details.

An itinerary and information around what to expect can be found here.

LEGO Masterclass

LEGO Masterclass

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We’ve been sparking creative imaginations in our first joint venture with the LEGO Group!

Last week we were delighted to welcome 11 patients and their families for a LEGO Masterclass as part of the LEGO Group’s ‘Build the Change’ program.

Build the Change encourages children to express their hopes and dreams for the future through LEGO® bricks and a bit of imagination. Following our theme of ‘Playful City’, the children created their own buildings, playgrounds and hospitals showing how they would brighten and develop the spaces around them.

It was such an engaging day providing a chance to relax, have fun and create through play. Families took part in the LEGO six brick challenge and enjoyed working together. Spread a Smile’s Mr Magic was also on hand to spread even more smiles through magic!

A huge thank you to the LEGO Group for their support and time. Also to our friends Lola’s Cupcakes for donating the tasty treats and to Domino’s pizza for their support.

Please click here to find out more about our upcoming events and activities for the families we support.

Dr Alex George

Visit with Dr Alex George

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We were honoured to welcome Dr Alex George along to one of our visits to University College London Hospital last Friday, where he met patients and staff on the Oncology and general paediatric wards.

Dr Alex is an A&E and TV Doctor and a UK Youth Mental Health Ambassador within the Department of Education, known for his campaigning around mental health education.

Physical and mental health and wellbeing are both extremely important when battling and recovering from illness. Spread a Smile is dedicated to improving wellbeing and quality of life for the seriously ill children and young people we support.

Dr Alex spoke in depth with a number of patients, listening to their questions and sharing advice for managing the challenges they face.

Dr Alex George and StaffWe’re so grateful to Dr Alex for giving up his time to join us on the wards. Both patients and staff benefitted hugely from his presence and having the chance to talk, for which we can’t thank him enough.

“I loved meeting all the young people on the wards. I feel humbled by your stories. Your strength in the face of adversity is incredible. Big thanks to the team at Spread a Smile who visit the children and bring a moment of joy, even amongst the worry and sadness.” Dr Alex George

Spread a Smile Christmas Gifts

Christmas gifts needed

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Can you help Spread a Smile this Christmas? 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. From our Santa’s Grotto, festive art sessions and the thousands of gifts we deliver to wards and homes, we spread joy at a time when a smile is needed most.

To do this, we need the support of generous businesses and individuals to donate gifts and treats for our gift packages. Last year we sent around 2,500 gifts out to our hospital partners. This year we are aiming for 3,000!

If your business can help, or you could put us in touch with one who might, please email the team at We are looking for items suitable for children of all ages and need more than 4,000 small and medium sized gifts.

You can find inspiration for the type of gifts we need or even buy an individual gift for a child via our Amazon gift list. Examples are:

  • Baby toys
  • Sensory toys
  • Soft toys
  • Books
  • Paints
  • Puzzles
  • Games
  • Makeup
  • Toiletries (Teenagers)

A huge thank you to the individuals and companies who have donated gifts so far, including Acamar Films (BING Productions), Aurora World, Barry M, Big Potato Games, Bodil Jane, CASETiFY, Cheatwell Games, Derwent Art, Ginger Fox, Hasbro, Hunter Price International, IKEA Wembley, LUSH, MenKind, Moonpig, OTL Technologies, Over the Wall, Playmobil, Rainbow Designs, Spinmaster, Staedtler, Swizzels, The Fence Club and Wicked Uncle Toys.

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.