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spread a smile

Spread a Smile Fairy School

Spread a Smile ‘Fairy School’

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Spread a Smile fairies are a very special part of our team of Entertainers. Not only are they extremely talented, but they also bring a unique, magical quality which makes them so good at what they do.

We chatted to Fairy Ellie, Head of our Fairy School to find out what it takes to be a Spread a Smile fairy…

Fairy Ellie - Head of Fairy School

Fairy Ellie – Head of Fairy School

“We currently have around 12 fairies working within the Spread a Smile team of entertainers, all bringing something special to their work.

“The fairies joining our Fairy School already have beautiful singing voices, are skilled entertainers and have lots of experience working with children and young people. We also look for that little bit extra – enthusiasm, sensitivity, wonderful storytelling and the ability to immerse themselves and anyone they meet into their fairy world.

“A key part of Fairy School is to prepare our fairies for the specifics of working with (potentially vulnerable) young people in care settings. All of our entertainers undergo enhanced DBS checks and bespoke induction and safeguarding training. They must be able to understand and react to the needs of children of different age groups and abilities and adapt accordingly.

“We provide training as to the importance of language when talking to patients and their families and the protocols of working in hospitals – hygiene, etiquette, body language and how to keep themselves and the children they work with, safe and happy.

“Our fairies also undertake specific ‘fairy’ training, including shadowing other Spread a Smile fairies and entertainers on virtual and in person visits to see first-hand how things work and what is expected.

“Once a fairy graduates from Fairy School, they receive their own Fairy Book and survival kit containing lots of useful fairy things. Each fairy has their own fairy unform with unique touches of colour and personality which represents them and helps share their story and bring their own special touch of magic. We encourage our fairies to bring their fairy world and experiences to life and to wear their wings with pride.

“The children absolutely love visits from the fairies and usually want to know everything about them, whether they have any family or pets, where they live, what they eat and what it’s actually like to be a fairy. Fairies are often asked why they have straps on their wings and for those that don’t know, it’s to protect their wings as they fly through the clouds – particularly through the inclement British weather.  

“The wider entertainer team is always on hand to answer any questions and support as need be. When going into hospitals, our fairies always work as part of a team, usually with another Spread a Smile Fairy Bettyentertainer e.g. Magician, balloon artist, singer, and supported by a Visit Manager who liaises with the Hospital and Specialist Play Teams. The role of a fairy is to bring the extra sparkle and help the children we support to escape into a magical world, hopefully forgetting illness, pain and treatment – even if it’s just for a moment.”

Fairy Betty, one of our most recent fairy graduates said:

“It is an absolute privilege to be part of the Spread a Smile team and to be able to bring some fairy magic to seriously ill children and young people. As a fairy, I believe that every child should be able to experience the joy and wonder that our world can bring. To be able to share this with families during some of their most difficult times is really special.”

 

If you are interested in joining our team of entertainers, please complete our online application form here.

Spread a Smile half-term activities

Half-term activities

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Half-term is fast approaching (13-17 February) and we have some fabulous activities for the families we support to enjoy.

From decorating Valentine’s Day cupcakes, to a TikTok workshop, makeup masterclass, story writing session, balloon modelling, a sensory show, party time with Sharky and George and even an online visit to see animals live in the Zoo. There really is something for everyone.

So don’t miss out! Sign up for our half-term activities here.

 

Royal Parks Half Marathon

Royal Parks Half Marathon

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Join Team Smile for the Royal Parks Half Marathon on Sunday 8 October 2023.

This incredible half marathon takes in some of the capital’s world-famous landmarks, on closed roads and within four of London’s eight Royal Parks – Hyde Park, The Green Park, St James’s Park and Kensington Gardens.

Although undulating in parts, the course is not hilly and is great for both experienced or first time half marathon runners. The added bonus is that you will take in some of the capital’s most historic landmarks, including Buckingham Palace, Horse Guards Parade and the Royal Albert Hall, on the way round.

Please contact Rimi at fundraising@spreadasmile.org to grab one of our charity places or if you’ve managed to secure your own place from the race organisers and would like to join our team.

Event date: Sunday 8 October 2023

Minimum fundraising: £450

ArcelorMittal Abseil

ArcelorMittal Orbit Abseil

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Join Spread a Smile as we take over the UK’s tallest sculpture for an abseil from the ArcelorMittal Orbit, located in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, East London.

Abseiling down the ArcelorMittal Orbit will be an experience you will never forget as you will experience the most spectacular views of London, whilst dangling in free space, 80 metres above the ground!

You’ll also help to raise vital funds for our work supporting seriously ill children and young people in hospital.

Please contact Rimi at fundraising@spreadasmile.org for more information and to sign up today!

Event date: Saturday 17th June 2023

Minimum fundraising: £300

Marina Constantinou - Head of Art

Marina – Head of Art

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Marina Constantinou is our Head of Art and has been working with Spread a Smile since 2012. Meet Marina below and find our a little more about how art spreads so much joy for the patients and hospitals we support.

“My life in art started when I took A-Level art at school followed by Fashion and Textiles Design at the London College of Fashion. When my children were three and four, I started face painting and that re-ignited my love for art. I started to think how wonderful it would be to face paint for the children at Great Ormond Street Hospital. It was something I always wanted to do so I was so excited to start working with Spread a Smile.

I work with a team of around five Spread a Smile artists, all of whom offer a different artistic skill, relevant to different age groups.

I particularly enjoy painting and personalising radiotherapy masks for patients undergoing treatment for brain, head and neck cancer at University College London Hospital and The Royal Marsden. Painting the masks makes them less frightening and helps children manage their treatment better.

My whole day is spent in the mold room or conservatory, where the masks are fitted for the patient. I have a selection of pictures based on the child’s requests and then decide on the day, what and how I will be painting. All of the painting is done using Posca pens so that it doesn’t interfere with MRI scans and I do them free hand without templates. It is such a personal thing for the child and something that makes such a huge difference to what can be a very scary experience.

Artwork at Watford General Hospital“I also enjoy painting designs on walls and windows within the hospitals. These really help to brighten spaces for patients, staff and families. My day starts with my case full of paint and ideas from the hospital of what they would like. Everyone loves seeing the artwork come to life before them!

 “I also carry out one-to-one art sessions with patients. I take a number of different application colour options from chalk, paint, pencils and pens for the patient to choose. I have many ideas and they choose what they want to do. I usually spend about 30 minutes with each patient and they keep what they have created. It is a great opportunity to chat and teach and such a therapeutic experience for everyone.

“My work means I visit many of our Hospital partners across the Country. I’ve created art across a range of wards, departments and areas from Hematology, to recovery wards, anesthetic rooms, ambulance bays, dining areas, therapy rooms, bathrooms, outpatients, inpatients and A&E.

“A lot of hospitals are quite tired and haven’t been freshened up for many years, so it is an honour to brighten up very dull and sterile areas on the wards or waiting areas. My artwork brings a distraction to patients waiting to see a doctor and they love watching the work unfold. It can open up conversations about art and inspire children and parents to paint or draw themselves.  

“My life painting for Spread a Smile is a privilege. I am given the freedom to colour and brighten spaces and ignite new feelings for everyone. The hospitals I work with are very happy when I do the artwork for them and allow me to give ideas and we work together.

The masks in particular are very special to me, as it was an idea I suggested. It was amazing to see Spread a Smile make it happen and I will always make sure I am available to paint a mask for a child starting their first treatment. It is very special work and one I am grateful for every day if it can make a small difference to children going through unimaginable things.”

Please donate to our Christmas Appeal if you can to help ensure Marina can continue to spread joy through art into 2023. Thank you.

Spread a Smile Smile Hampers 2022

Christmas roundup

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Christmas is always a busy time of year for Spread a Smile because it’s a time when the families we support need us most.
For children and young people battling serious or terminal illness, Christmas can mean time spent in hospital, undergoing treatment and separated from family and friends. It can mean time feeling very very unwell and unable to go out and do the Christmassy things that we associate with the season.
So we make it our mission to bring the magic of Christmas and as much joy and laughter to the children we support and their families. In total, more than 4,500 children will be reached through our Christmas activities and thanks to the generous support of our donors and volunteers, here’s how we’ve done it…
We’ve sent out 700 personalised Smile Hampers containing a total of 5,600 gifts across the UK for children and their siblings. Take a look at our ‘Smile Hamper’ film here.
218 volunteers gave up 763 hours of their time to help pack the gifts and each Hamper was full of gifts kindly donated by our wonderful supporters and hand picked with each child in mind.
The Hampers were delivered by our Entertainers door-to-door thanks to 17 brilliant volunteer taxi drivers who transported us safely between destinations.
We are reaching and supporting all 27 of our partner hospitals through our Christmas activities this year. A whopping 3,500 gifts have been delivered to our hospitals for children on the wards to receive for Christmas.

Spread a Smile Christmas Grotto

Our Entertainers once again joined Santa at the North Pole for our virtual Christmas grotto and over 400 children met Santa online over 10 days. For those children stuck in hospital or bed bound this made a massive difference and will provide lasting joyful memories for the whole family.

 

We’re running a variety of individual and virtual group sessions in the lead up to and around Christmas to continue to provide joy and distraction during the festive period. Some of our Entertainers will also be visiting Hospitals in person on Christmas Day!
If you would like to help spread some Christmas cheer, please support our Christmas Appeal by making a donation.
Just £25 could help pay for a child to meet Santa in our virtual grotto and receive a special gift. Donate Now

Spread a Smile is proud to deliver all of the above to support our families and hospital partners. However none of it would be possible without our brilliant donors and volunteers. So thank you to…

  • Those who donated financially to support our Christmas activities
  • Those who sent a gift for our Smile Hampers and hospital deliveries
  • All of the amazing companies who donated larger numbers of gifts: Aurora World, Barry M, Casetify UK, Cheatwell Games, Derwent Art, Ginger Fox UK, Hasbro, Hunter Price International, Insurance Claims Accomodation Bureau (ICAB), Lush, Men Kind, OTL Technologies, Rainbow Designs Ltd, Spin Master, Swizzels and Wicked Uncle Toys
  • The volunteers who gave up their time to come into the office to wrap and pack: Caroline Lisberg, Carolyn Klaus, Ged Arnold, Freya Melling, Holly Gardner, Louise Jacobs, Megan McGee, Joshua Saul, Andrew Lobb, Liz Gould, Sarah Lennerd plus teams from the following brilliant companies 1 to 3 Coffee Ltd, Bregal Milestone, Blink, Camp Beaumont, Cedar Recruitment, CJC IT, Hasbro, Hain Daniels, Hilco Capital, JNE Partners, LEGO group, LMAC Group, OSB Group, Sharesy, Texel Foundation and Uncommon.
  • WC Hackney Carriage Drivers, Kinetic IT Ltd and DPD for helping to deliver the Smile Hampers and hospital gifts
  • Santa and our amazing Entertainers for their energy and passion
  • Our NHS Hospital Partners, Hospices, staff and teams for being so brilliant.
Comedy Night 2022

Comedy Night success

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What a night to remember!

Last night saw our second annual Comedy Night at The Comedy Store, London, hosted by our amazing Ambassador Suzi Ruffell.

Suzi RuffellSuzi curated a brilliant night of stand-up comedy featuring an amazing line-up of comedians – Alan Carr, Rosie Jones, Jen Brister, Seann Walsh and Dinesh Nathan.

Over £20,000 was raised for Spread a Smile and our work bringing joy and laughter to seriously and terminally ill children. This is an incredible amount which will make a huge  difference.

Alan Carr - Spread a Smile Comedy Night 2022A massive thank you to Suzi and all her fellow, talented comedians. Also our sponsors Canary Wharf Contractors and everyone who bought tickets and donated on the night to help ensure we can continue our vital work.

Plus thank you to Create Development, Sanjiv Patel (Westgate Healthcare), PROPER, Slingsby Gin, Valeo Snack Foods and Perfectted Energy for their support.

Sign up to our Enews to make sure you’re the first to hear about next year’s event!

Niko

Meet Niko…

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In February 2022 Niko’s, and his family’s, world was flipped upside down when at the age of just two years old, Niko was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, an aggressive type of blood cancer.

Niko was admitted to Great Ormond Street Hospital where he immediately received blood tests, blood product transfusions and other urgent procedures including genetic testing, bone marrow tests, lumbar punctures, blood tests, antibiotics, steroids and high intensity chemotherapy. The family were told that Niko’s treatment plan would last at least 3 years and that it would involve 13 rounds of Chemotherapy. A long and draining future lay ahead.

By mid March 2022, Niko’s treatment was so intense, with so many negative side effects, that he stopped walking, playing and being able to move independently. After a period of investigation and tests, adjustments to his medication, consultations with physiotherapy and special aids, Niko recovered some of his mobility around the end of April. His mobility however, still isn’t 100%. It was an extremely scary and emotional time for the family. Niko continues to be very weak, gets very tired after just a few steps and his legs often just give way underneath him meaning that he falls over a lot.

There then followed other phases of treatment which once again involved a lot of hospital admissions and more chemotherapy, during which time Niko lost his hair for the fourth time. It was a relief to find out at the end of this phase that although by no means the end of the road, Niko was considered to be in remission.

Since September, Niko has been having daily chemotherapy at home to try and prevent any remaining cancer cells from reproducing and taking over again. Niko visits his local hospital, Colchester General Hospital weekly for blood tests and every four weeks for IV chemotherapy and steroids pulses. He now only

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attends Great Ormond Street Hospital every 3 months for further checks and treatment which includes lumbar punctures and infused chemotherapy into the spinal cord and fluid around the brain.

The family first came across Spread a Smile in late Spring 2022 when a member of the hospital play team gave Niko a Spread a Smile ‘walking balloon’. Niko was having an awful day, fasting before surgery and the balloon made such a difference, lifting his spirits and giving him something exciting to focus on.

As Mum Katie said: “As soon as Niko saw the balloon he started to smile. I googled Spread a Smile, as there was a sticker on the balloon, to find out more about them and got straight in touch when I saw all of the different activities they offer that I knew might help Niko. Niko started having one-to-one virtual sessions with Spread a Smile Entertainers over the summer holidays including magicians and fairies. He particularly loved the magicians who made him smile, laugh and shout at the screen every time.”

“When you are going through such a hard, draining and emotional time, seeing your child smile, even if very briefly, can mean everything.”

Please donate to our Christmas Appeal to help ensure we can continue to support children like Niko and his family, spreading a smile when it’s needed most.

Just £25 could help pay for a child to meet Santa in our virtual grotto and receive a special gift

Donate Now

Maisie and Thomas

Meet Maisie…

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Maisie’s journey began in January 2021 during the height of the second wave of Covid. After complaining of a stiff neck, an MRI revealed a mass on Maisie’s neck. She was immediately put in a neck brace and blue lighted to King’s College Hospital, where after lots of tests and weeks later, Maisie was diagnosed with Osteoblastoma – a type of benign tumour. The tumour had completely crushed her c5 vertebrae, putting her entire neck at risk.

Maisie underwent 13 hours of surgery at King’s College Hospital to remove the mass and the operation was deemed a success. However, 6 months later during a review in September 2021, the family found out that things had changed and the tumour looked different. Their worst fears were realised when Maisie was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma – an aggressive form of primary bone cancer.

After an 8 week period admitted to Stanmore Hospital for DNA genomic testing, Maisie started an intensive course of six rounds of chemotherapy at University College London Hospital (UCLH) to try to shrink the tumour. Unfortunately, the chemotherapy wasn’t successful, leading to more surgery to remove the tumour which took 23 hours across 2.5 days. In October 2022, Maisie started a 6-week course of daily radiotherapy sessions to treat the remaining inoperable cancer in her neck.

Claire, Maisie’s Mum says: “When we found out about Maisie’s cancer, our world fell apart. We found ourselves living from scan to scan, sitting around in hospitals, watching our young daughter undergoing painful and upsetting surgery and treatments, whilst being separated from the rest of our family. The feelings of helplessness, desperation and extreme worry and anxiety were almost unmanageable.”

Maisie and her Mum

Spread a Smile has been supporting Maisie and her family since her treatment started – initially through virtual one-to-one sessions with our entertainers and also bedside visits from our Therapy Dog, Thomas.  These sessions have given Maisie so much joy and laughter, helping to distract her from her treatment and pain. When she feels well enough, Maisie also joins us for our Spread a Smile outings and experiences. She recently came along for our VIP trip to The Lion King in London and met other cancer patients for a fabulous cookery session and meal with the Underground Cookery School.

“Spread a Smile has helped to brighten our days during some of the darkest times. They are like a breath of fresh air and have given Maisie so much to smile about. They help us to feel normal again and forget what Maisie is going through, even if it’s for a short time. What they do is truly wonderful and I can’t thank them enough for helping my daughter to find happiness amongst the pain.”

Please donate to our Christmas Appeal to help ensure we can continue to support young people like Maisie, spreading a smile when it’s needed most.

Just £25 could help pay for a child to meet Santa in our virtual grotto and receive a special gift

Donate Now

Join our fundraising team

Join our Fundraising team

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Are you a Senior Fundraiser looking for an exciting challenge working alongside a brilliant team?

We’re recruiting for an experienced Senior Fundraising Manager on a full-time, 12-month maternity leave contract.

Click here for the Job Description and how to apply. The deadline for applications is Friday 23 December at 5pm.

We look forward to hearing from you.

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