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Croydon University Hospital. May Chu with Spread a Smile team

Croydon University Hospital collaboration

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Today Spread a Smile announces its newest collaboration with Croydon University Hospital to help spread smiles of joy to seriously ill patients under their care.

Patients and families across the Paediatric Unit, Oncology Clinic and inpatient and outpatients wards will now be able to access the many vital services that Spread a Smile provides, such as in-person entertainer visits as well as visits done virtually, suiting to the patient’s needs.

Working closely with hospital staff and play teams, we aim to spread joy and laughter at the most difficult times, providing opportunities for connection and distraction from treatment and illness. Croydon University Hospital joins the Spread a Smile family alongside the 25 other NHS hospitals and 2 hospices nationwide.

By collaborating together, we aim to help seriously ill children who are on their road to recovery with entertainment, smiles and laughter. The Spread a Smile team will spend quality time with patients, as well as running holiday themed virtual events and entertainment. Virtual visits alongside face-to-face sessions allow the team to see as many patients as possible, all with the aim of spreading hundreds of smiles at the hospital every single year.

The collaboration will add to the work already accomplished by the Croydon Health Charity, which continually raises funds to enhance the patient experience for Croydon’s sick children and young people.

Children will be invited to join weekly virtual group hospital sessions with Spread a Smile entertainers, take part in themed activity days when celebrating events like Easter and Christmas, giving children and their families many opportunities to join in with other activities, including family days out. Families of long-term patients will also be able to book one-on-one sessions.

May Chu, Senior Healthcare Play Specialist at Croydon University Hospital said, “Spread a Smile never fails to bring happiness and joy to our patients and staff. We always look forward to showing them around. The time and effort they take for each patient is really appreciated.”

Lucy Jackson, Spread a Smile Chief Executive added, “We are delighted to be providing monthly in-person entertainer visits. We know that our visits help patients cope better with the hospital environment and allow them to feel less isolated. 

“Our support to the young oncology patients is all about making their experience in hospital a more positive one and distracting them from challenging treatments and procedures. We look forward to more in-person visits with our team of entertainers in the future.”  

Please consider making a donation to help us continue our vital work supporting seriously ill children in hospital. Thank you.


Partner Focus – UCLH

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Spread a Smile has been supporting and working with UCLH (University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust) for nearly 10 years through regular in person visits, online sessions, treat drops and much more.

The Royal National ENT and Eastman Dental Hospitals, is one of UCLH’s specialist hospitals, with the Paediatric Dentistry Unit sees complex patients for whom a typical dental visit in primary care would be difficult. Since November 2022 in partnership with the hospital we have been trialing the use of therapy dogs to provide support for patients visiting the Unit to help reduce anxiety and stress.

We spoke to Paul Ashley, Professor/Honorary Consultant, Paediatric Dentistry about how this exciting new initiative is providing invaluable support for patients who would otherwise find a visit to the unit particularly challenging.

What was the reasoning behind involving Spread a Smile at the Paediatric Dentistry Unit?

“I was a committee member on the NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guidance – ‘Babies, children and young people’s experience of healthcare’. It was clear from some of the focus group work carried out with children that therapy animals were really important to them. So, following this feedback, I decided to work with Spread a Smile to see how therapy dogs could help in our Unit.”

How does the initiative work practically?

UCLH - Patient with Thomas“The Spread a Smile team currently work with the families to help reduce stress and worry whilst they are waiting in the waiting room before a procedure. When the patient arrives, they are met by Thomas or Harry, one of the Spread a Smile’s Therapy Dogs, along with one of the Spread a Smile Entertainers. They stay with the patient in the waiting room, building up a rapport. They might sing or talk together and the therapy dog provides a soothing distraction for the child as they stroke their fur and pet them. It helps to calm the patient (and any family members) and reduce anxiety in the lead up to the procedure they are there for. “In the longer term we would like the Spread a Smile team to also then follow patients through into the treatment area to continue to support the child whilst any dental procedures are taking place.”

How have Spread a Smile helped to make a positive difference for patients?

“In general, the ‘vibe’ in the waiting room is lovely when we have the Spread a Smile team here. Everyone looks forward to their visits – staff as well as patients. They help provide a calmer, more fun environment which can only be of benefit to the patients and their families. The therapy dogs are a welcome distraction.”

Generally Spread a Smile supports our delivery of high-quality care for our patients, improving the experience for both patient and dentist.”

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

The Royal London Hospital Eye Club

Partner Focus – The Royal London Hospital

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This week’s ‘Partner Focus’ features The Royal London Hospital in East London which includes one of the largest children’s hospitals in the UK. It’s specialist Eye Treatment Centre is the only centre in the south of England (and one of only two in the country) that can screen, diagnose and treat Retinoblastoma (a form of eye cancer).

Spread a Smile has been supporting staff and children and young people on the wards for a number of years. Alongside regular in person bi-monthly visits from our entertainers and the usual treat drops and online offering, we recently supported their ‘Eye Club’ and ‘Sib Squad’. The club welcomes children with artificial eyes so they can meet, make friends and learn how to look after their eyes.

We spoke to Gemma Melisi, Play Specialist at The Royal London Hospital about how Spread a Smile is supporting these amazing children initiative.

What is your role as a hospital Play Specialist?

“A Play Specialist uses therapeutic play to support and inform children and young people during a hospital visit, helping them to cope in an environment that can be quite scary. Through play, we give children an outlet to work through their anxiety and stress. We use friendly and comforting toys and medical equipment to help children through unfamiliar events and help to provide distraction during procedures.

“I am based in the Retinoblastoma (RB) service and support children who have RB. Sometimes a child might need to have an artificial eye and through play we aim to make this easier for the patient and family, including a sibling day called ‘Sib Squad’ where we help create positive memories by making scrapbooks.  

How does Spread a Smile support your work?

The Royal London Hospital Eye Club

The Royal London Hospital Eye Club

“Spread a Smile send in their amazing people and entertainers to help support the children at Eye Club. The children had so much fun with the Spread a Smile team and really enjoyed the day.

“I love working with Spread a Smile and everyone always looks forward to their visit. They bring so much joy to the children, families and wards and offer a great distraction to a hospital stay/visit.  Spread a Smile always brings that smile! They allow the children and staff to escape from what can be a really difficult time. We really can’t thank Spread a Smile enough for your support. Keep up the amazing work and we can’t wait to do it all again soon!”

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.

Team Spread a Smile

Announcing four new hospital partners

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We are delighted to announce four new hospital partners, Barnet Hospital, Newham Hospital, Princess Alexandra Hospital and Watford General Hospital, bringing our total number of NHS partners to 25.

Our entertainers will be making monthly in-person visits to each of these hospitals and patients will also be invited to join our regular virtual visits and school holiday activities.

Their timing for joining the Spread a Smile family couldn’t be better as they are with us just in time to join our Christmas activities, including deliveries of Christmas gifts to all four sites.

At each hospital, we will be visiting patients on the inpatient wards and in outpatient departments including visiting patients during oncology clinics. Nurses and Play Specialists will also be able to request bespoke visits for children who are seriously unwell, allowing Spread a Smile to really make a difference when a child and their family most need a lift.

Helen Cripps, Play Specialist on Starfish Ward at Watford General Hospital said: “Spread a Smile has already had a huge impact to the Starfish Ward. Your lovely entertainers certainly cheer up all our patients and their families too and they are rays of sunshine! Their positivity really does rub off on all the patients they meet.

Spread a Smile artist Marina has painted an amazing mural in the Children’s Outpatients Department and has already started on a second mural. It makes the department so much more welcoming and cheerful. We love the Spread a Smile visits and look forward to them very much.”