Posts Tagged :

spread a smile

Meet our new team members

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It’s our aim to spread smiles to as many seriously ill children and their families as possible and we’re lucky to have an incredible team enabling us to do just that.

Two of the newest members to the Spread a Smile family are Gary Broadway who recently joined our Services team as Family Events Coordinator and Tasha Mann who is our new Community Fundraising Manager.

Here’s a little bit from Gary and Tasha to help you get to know them.

Tasha: “I have a background in community and events fundraising and am delighted to be part of the Spread a Smile team. I’ve recently come back from a 5-month trip travelling around South East Asia and Australia (which was incredible) and I’m ready to be back in the charity world and am really enjoying working closely with our wonderful supporters and fundraisers.

“Everyone at Spread a Smile has welcomed me with open arms. Just like the incredible work the charity does to help bring joy and laughter to children, the team reflect that with their compassion, kindness, and warmth. I couldn’t be more excited to join such an important and dynamic organisation.”

“Smiling can have such a hugely positive effect on everyone. For me, running, cooking and spending time with my friends always brings out a smile.”

Gary: I previously worked in the Play Team at Kingston Hospital, providing activities, entertainment, play opportunities and themed events for inpatients during their treatment. Whilst working there, we partnered with Spread a Smile and I instantly fell in love with what they were doing and their mission to provide entertainment for all seriously ill children.

“When the opportunity to join Spread a Smile as Family Events Coordinator came up, I jumped at the chance as I felt my experience of working in hospitals and trying to create magical moments for them aligned with Spread a Smile’s goals. I’ve already been to my first event and I’m very excited to meet all our amazing families, help put on more memorable events and help make more children and young people smile! It really is a special place to work.”

“I love to spend time with my family and friends, and I also love to travel, eat and explore nice places. Seeing other people happy is what makes me smile most!”

A huge welcome to both Tasha and Gary and you can meet more of our amazing team here.

Spread a Smile attends RCPCH Conference

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The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) annual Conference brings together a diverse audience of professionals, experts, and stakeholders in the field of child health, including paediatricians, nursers, decision makers, youth workers and service users.

The RCPCH Conference serves as a hub for learning, networking, and advancing child health care, with thousands of delegates visiting the ICC, Birmingham and also online this year.

This year, Spread a Smile’s Director of Services Laura Walter was delighted to present a poster at this year’s conference under the ‘Mental Health Category’ titled ‘Spread a Smile Therapeutic Entertainment Programme: Improving well-being and supporting positive mental health in paediatric patients and their families’. The poster shared findings of our recent surveys carried out with parents/carers, health care professionals and children and young people, helping us to understand the benefits of Spread a Smile’s work.

Laura said, “It was a privilege to attend the RCPCH Conference this year and to have the opportunity to raise awareness about Spread a Smile. Platforms such as this are a brilliant way of sharing experiences and engaging with different audiences and colleagues, enabling us to share the positive impact of our work on children and young people during our hospital visits.

We hope to continue to build on the many positive relationships and conversations shared during this year’s Conference and area already looking forward to 2025.”

 

You can take a look at our research poster here.

A Time to Remember – Our Memorial Ceremony

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On Saturday, Spread a Smile held a very special memorial ceremony to remember children and young people that the charity have supported over the past 11 years.

We were joined by 13 families for a non-religious ceremony, led by Judge the Poet. During the ceremony Judge talked about how memories of a person can be represented by different stones, including smooth pebbles for everyday memories, rough stones for difficult and painful memories and gemstones for beautiful and happy memories. Families were able to choose their own gemstone to take home and were invited to write their memories onto a memory leaf to hang on a special memory tree along with the name of their loved one.

After the ceremony, there was time to connect over lunch, with gentle activities for our families and siblings, including aromatherapy from Priya, magic from Mr Magic, legacy arts and crafts, including sand jars and bracelets with Posey and poems from the wonderful Judge. It was a chance for everyone to remember, share and talk openly with others in a safe space.

As one mum said to us, “this event was the first time I’ve been able to think about a positive memory of my daughter since she passed away.”

Spread a Smile Co-Founders Josephine Segal and Vanessa Crocker were there on the day and the whole team was incredibly proud to share in this very special day.

We are extremely grateful to our amazing partners, Children with Cancer UK for their generous contribution which helped make this event possible and for supporting us on the day.

Also, to The Clarkson Foundation for kindly hosting us at their beautiful office in St Katherine’s Docks, providing the delicious lunch and making us feel so welcome.

Please do reach out if you would like to find out more about how we can support your family.

Meet our viral sensation, Mr Magic

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Spread a Smile magician and viral sensation Mr Magic is hoping his newfound social media fame will continue to bring positivity and joy to those who need it and remind people just how powerful laughter and smiles can be.

Mr Magic’s clip of a cheeky magic wand that refused to be put away earned a rippling,  unfettered belly laugh of giggles from a child he met in hospital, and currently has more than four million views and over 380,000 likes on Instagram alone (@spreadasmileuk)! The film has also helped take Spread a Smile’s followers from just over 6,000 to 20,000 in two months.

Mr Magic, real name Ian Manly, says: I’ve always thought how wonderful it would be to bottle a child’s amazing laugh, and now we’ve done it.

“I knew it was a great video as there is nothing better than a child laughing. Add in the fact that this child was quite unwell in a hospital, and it just makes it such a strong and emotional piece of film.

“It’s received comments from all around the world with so many people saying, ‘I’m keeping this and will play it every time I need cheering up’. It’s a very proud moment when you realise how much it has positively affected people’s lives.”

Ian began working for Spread a Smile 11 years ago, when Co-Founders Josephine Segal and Vanessa Crocker set up the charity.

He recalls: It was very small then and the only hospital we visited was Great Ormond Street – and that was once a month.

“I was referred to Josephine and Vanessa by Vanessa’s sister, who had seen me do a magic show. Once I met Josephine and Vanessa I had no hesitation in joining Spread a Smile and have been there ever since, watching with great pride as their determination and hard work ensured it has grown into what it is today.”

“Magic has always fascinated children, who love tapping into their creative imaginations. People think it’s easy to do magic for children, but it’s not. There is so much more going on in a simple children’s magic trick than the actual trick itself. Everyone wants to ‘believe’ and the child has to follow the story and what is happening. The words you use are vital – and of course they need to be entertained continually throughout the trick. Plus, a good trick for one child may not even be a good trick for another child the same age. For me, entertainment is the most important factor.”

All of Spread a Smile’s entertainers bring their own talents, skills and expertise to help spread a little happiness to seriously ill children and young people in hospital and online at home.

Ian says: “The video is as close as anyone can possibly get to actually being in the same room to see the massive difference we make. It’s not unusual to create this laughter and it happens often. The wonderment and fun created by Spread a Smile’s singers, fairies, magicians, musicians, poets and therapy dogs shows on every visit. And not just for the children, but for the parents, grandparents, siblings and friends who are at the hospital and are all heavily involved in their journey too. It is our mission to ‘Spread a Smile’ to everyone and I hope the message taken from the film is that even in the darkest of times, there is always hope.”

The film has helped raise huge awareness about Spread a Smile and it’s work in NHS hospitals and hospices across the country, with the growth in audience meaning the charity can reach even more people who need their help. It is also clear from the 4,000+ comments on the film, that the film has been helpful to so many people, helping to spread smiles across the world.

“It’s wonderful to think that people around the world are playing the film over and over and it’s helping them through difficult times. Sometimes the simplest things can make the world of difference to someone.”

Now that really is what we call magic!

if you haven’t already seen the film, head over to @spreadasmileuk on Instagram, Facebook or X, or watch below.

To support our work spreading smiles, please donate here

New year family events

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It’s been a busy start to the year, with some incredible family events and outings for some of the children, young people and families we support.

We once again returned to Underground Cookery School in partnership with cancer support charity Teens Unite Fighting Cancer, inviting young people affected by serious illness to learn how to cook a delicious 2-course meal from scratch. As always, it was a fun day, filled with much laughter, providing a relaxed opportunity for the young people to learn new skills and then sit down together to enjoy the meal they had prepared. Outings such as these are hugely important for the young people we support as they provide respite and a chance to connect and share their experiences in a safe environment whilst simply being a teenager amongst other teenagers.

We also invited families to join us for visit to see Wicked at the Apollo Theatre in London – a wonderful experience and a lovely way for families to spend time together, allowing moments of escape in to the magical world of the theatre.

Last month our good friends at Mildreds Restaurants welcomed families for a delicious afternoon tea at their London restaurant. This monthly initiative is always such a joy, with Spread a Smile entertainers on hand to add to the fun. Often these afternoons enable children and young people going through treatment for serious illness to meet other families in similar situations. To see the smiles and relaxation makes everything we do worthwhile.

We know that everyone in a family is deeply affected by the illness of a child or sibling. Our outings, events and activities aim to support young patients, their parents, carers and siblings and bring moments of respite, joyful experiences and enduring memories at the most challenging of times.

Thank you to Underground Cookery School, Mildreds Restaurants, Apollo Theatre for helping to spread smiles and make all of our family events possible.

To find out more about our family events, please take a look here or register your interest.

Our unforgettable Sahara Desert trek

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Spread a Smile’s team of intrepid explorers have returned from an incredible 5-day trek across the Sahara Desert, raising over £25,000 to help spread even more smiles to seriously ill children and young people.

“An unforgettable week spent with an incredible group of people. The skies, the sand, the stars, the smelly camels, the blisters, the campfires, the emptiness, the quiet. We laughed ’til we cried. We cried ’til we laughed. Supporting each other to just put one foot in front of the other, never forgetting the reason we were all there: to raise money to help critically ill children and their families. It was an adventure of a lifetime. I’d do it again in a heartbeat and would recommend it to anyone.” Caroline Carey, Team Smile

Our trekkers covered 100km in total, taking in beautiful yet forbidding landscapes punctuated by peaks, gorges, dunes and oases, enjoying traditional Berber hospitality and sleeping under Africa’s star strewn skies.

Spread a Smile’s Director of Operations, Roxane Caplan joined the team on the trek, sharing her experience with us;

“On Saturday, I returned from an awe-inspiring week in the Sahara Desert for Spread a Smile. There, I was joined by Richard, Tim, Hugo, Rachel and Jon, Della, Simon, Amy and Caroline for an adventure we will never forget.

“Our journey together started at London Heathrow, flying via Casablanca to Ouarzazate in Morocco, our gateway to the Sahara Desert. The following morning, we were driven six hours further inland where we entered into the Jebel Saghro region and started our trek on the Maider El Kbir plateau late that afternoon.  We arrived at camp elated and were delighted to be greeted with fresh mint tea and biscuits. On day two, we rose early at 6.30am and ate breakfast as the sun came up over the sand dunes. We climbed up and over the dunes of Jebel El Mrakib and admired stunning views across the desert just before lunch. We’d been on our feet non-stop for four and a half hours, so enjoyed a well deserved break resting under a canopy out of the midday heat. After lunch, we walked through palm gorges and across the dry Rhris riverbed before camping that night in an oasis of tamarisk trees. 

“Our evenings were spent playing games and nursing blisters, before the sun set, and then we would eat together, devouring delicious food, which was prepared each night by Fatima, our wonderful chef. Some days we ate chicken, cous cous and vegetables, other days there was beef on offer. We always finished our meal with fruit and a glass of verbena tea as we gazed up at the incredible, starry skies. 

“Our final day was spent trekking along the Tikertouachene river which was empty of water at this time of year, and after lunch, a brutal sandstorm closed in on us, lasting for the rest of the day until about 8pm. It made us feel like we were walking in treacle and that night, our sleeping bags felt like they were lined with sand that had been blown in by the strong winds! It made us appreciate how lucky we had been on the previous days with the weather, which although hot during the day, was breezy and never unbearable. At night, it was chilly, but we’d come well prepared, so everyone was comfortable.

“Over the five days, we trekked 105km, passing through a beautiful array of landscapes and feeling a huge sense of comradery and achievement as we crossed the finish line. We were led by the brilliant Ibrahim and Omar, experienced Moroccan guides who were friendly and knowledgeable and who we trusted completely, and we kept our spirits high chatting to one another as we walked across the desert, with the sun beating down on us. Some days we were walking for up to six or seven hours, but it never felt too much, with the beautiful scenery and great conversation, time passed quite quickly. 

“We celebrated on the evening of our penultimate day, with a nice meal, where people shared their experiences. We all agreed what an epic adventure it had been with a brilliant group of people who are now firm friends.

“Thanks to the support of this incredible group of people, Spread a Smile will be able to help hundreds more seriously ill children and their families this year. We are so grateful to each and every one of them and it was an absolute privilege to walk alongside them on this incredible journey.”

If you’re interested in joining us for one of our upcoming events or challenges, please email Rimi for a chat or take a look at some of our suggested overseas events here.

Thank you to our event organisers, Charity Challenge for all their support.

The Clarkson Foundation funds hospital visits

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As a charity which doesn’t receive any government funding, we rely completely on the support of companies, organisations and individuals to fund our vital work spreading smiles to seriously ill children and their families.

One such organisation is The Clarkson Foundation, which last year made a generous donation to enable Spread as Smile to make 120 hospital visits, helping to spread smiles to over 1,900 children and their families.

Lucy Jackson, Chief Executive for Spread a Smile said, “Donations from Trusts and Foundations specifically enable us to directly fund certain areas of our work, ensuring the continuation of those services into the future. We are extremely grateful to The Clarkson Foundation for helping us to reach so many children in hospital and their families when they need us most.”

The Clarkson Foundation aims to make a tangible difference and a lasting impact across communities through meaningful grant-giving to causes that they feel passionate about. In the run-up to Christmas 2023, The Clarkson Foundation further extended their support to us by funding the purchase of presents to send out to the children and families over Christmas time.

Dharani Sridharan, Trustee of The Clarkson Foundation said, “We are incredibly proud to be supporting Spread a Smile and their commitment to deliver joy to young patients and their families. The energy and positivity that Spread a Smile provides is inspirational and we hope it brings the children and their families some enjoyment and support them.”

A huge thank you to all our friends at The Clarkson Foundation for their kindness and support. We couldn’t do what we do without you.

If you are part of a Trust or Foundation, or know of one that might be able to support Spread a Smile, we’d love to hear from you. Please do reach out at fundraising@spreadasmile.org – thank you.

Royal Parks Half Marathon places

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Don’t miss out on your chance to snap up a place on Team Smile for the Royal Parks Half Marathon on Sunday 13 October.

Last year 67 runners joined us to take on the beautiful 13.1-mile course on closed roads and within four of London’s eight Royal Parks – Hyde Park, The Green Park, St James’s Park and Kensington Gardens.

This was our largest team to date including some of our amazing supporters and fundraisers from the Corinthia Hotel, Mishcon de Reya, Hamilton Court Foreign Exchange, Downing LLP, Blackrock and Convex Insurance.

“What an incredible day to be part of. I loved every second of it and running in aid of Spread a Smile made it all the more special. It was an emotional endurance text which I would 100% do all over again.” Natalie Donaldson, Spread a Smile supporter

This year, we’re excited to be returning to this brilliant event and hope that our supporters will get in touch to be part of something really special.

Register today!

Event date: Sunday 13 October
Registration fee: £30
Minimum sponsorship: £500 (excluding Gift Aid)

Course: Gentle undulations but generally flat course, making it fantastic for both beginners and experienced runners.

Please get in touch with Rimi at rimi@spreadasmile.org for a chat or if you have any questions.

Smash Arts ‘Technicolour’ triumph

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On the evening of Saturday 17 February, Smash Arts Theatre Company took to the stage at the Centenary Theatre, Berkhamsted School in aid of Spread a Smile for a very special performance of Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.

However, this was no ordinary production, as the cast and crew only found out 24-hours before taking to the stage on Saturday night which musical they would be performing. With everyone finding out their roles and rehearsals starting at 7.30pm on Friday 16 February, the team embarked on the huge challenge of staging the show in 24 hours, with limited time to sleep and working solidly through the night and resulting in a magnificent and joy-filled performance of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.

As audience member Karen Jordan said, “It really was truly amazing and the talent of all the boy/girls/men/women taking part was outstanding. Their personalities shone through and the way they interacted with the audience was brilliant and just showed how professional they all are. I could have watched it for another hour, two, three, four hours more… in fact I could have watched it all night long. It was brilliant!”

The Smash Arts team and cast raised an incredible £15,927.31 to support Spread a Smile’s work bringing joy and laughter to seriously ill children in NHS hospitals and hospices across the country, with Smash Arts Co-Founder Alex Williams saying, “This was a challenge we will not forget for a long time, an experience for the entire Smash family to support an incredible cause. And what a show it was! I think we can safely say many smiles were spread and many tears shed on Saturday night, but every minute of tiredness was worth it for the final outcome.”

Smash Arts Theatre company was formed in 2020 by co-founders Alex Williams and Dani Acors with Dani also being a regular member of the Spread a Smile team of entertainers, using her performing talents to spread smiles across Spread a Smile’s hospital and hospice partners.

Dani said, “This has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my entire life. Joseph is a very special show for me, so to combine that with working with an incredibly talented group of friends to create something so magical in such a short space of time for a charity so very close to my heart, is not only a privilege but an honour I will keep close with me forever.”

There was a magical atmosphere in the air as the evening unfolded, with the audience cheering and clapping at every opportunity and the performers obviously enjoying the experience as much as the audience, with everyone coming together for a standing ovation at the end and a final rendition of ‘Any Dream will Do.’

Lucy Jackson Spread a Smile Chief Executive said, “We are extremely grateful to everyone at Smash Arts Theatre Company – Dani, Alex, the cast, and crew – Berkhamsted School and everyone who bought tickets and supported this brilliant event for doing so much and helping to raise such an incredible amount for Spread a Smile. The show was an absolute triumph, and we feel proud to be the chosen charity for such an uplifting, positive, creative and empowering initiative.”

Thank you, Dani, Alex and everyone at Smash Arts Theatre Company.

Supporter Nick Stewart takes on Hyrox

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Nick Stewart is a Climate Change & CFO Leader at Baringa Partners and joined the Spread a Smile Business Committee in 2023 to help explore new fundraising and awareness for the charity. We spoke to Nick about how he became involved with Spread a Smile and his Hyrox fundraising challenge which raised £3,000 to help spread smiles to the families we support.

“A good friend of mine, Mark London who sits on Spread a Smile’s Business Committee, first introduced me to the charity. I’d been working with Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) for a number of years and when I met Lucy Jackson, Spread a Smile’s Chief Executive, I realised the connection between the two charities, as Spread a Smile entertainers regularly visit GOSH to spread smiles across the wards.  I’ve seen firsthand the difference Spread a Smile’s entertainers make in hospital and the impact is huge. I was looking to give a bit more time to charities that I feel passionately about, and this felt like the perfect fit.

“I was delighted to join Spread a Smile’s Business Committee and really enjoyed my first meeting. We’re in the process of setting our plans and developing ways to support Spread a Smile and raise vital funds and awareness. It’s exciting to think of the difference we will help make. I’ve spent a lot of the last five years working in the environmental, social and governance (ESG) arena, so I’m hoping to bring a good network across the city to support our aims.

I also decided to fundraise for the charity and was already signed up to Hyrox, a global fitness race which is quite intense and designed to test your overall body strength and fitness. It’s a real challenge, so seemed perfect. I trained with a group of friends from my gym, Roam Athletics, and we all took part in Hyrox at the ExCel Centre, London back in November. It was the most excruciating and challenging activity I’ve done, both mentally and physically, but I really enjoyed it and I’m hoping to sign up again. I was delighted to raise £3,000 in total and am extremely grateful to all my friends and colleagues for supporting me. I was pleased to finish in one hour 22 as the World Record is  just under one hour.

“Alongside the fundraising, I also joined the team in December at the Spread a Smile office to help pack up their Christmas Hampers. It was great to meet the wider team and really get a feel for the work they are doing and the difference they are making. I’m so glad to be a part of that and am very much looking forward to next steps and what lies ahead for this brilliant charity.”

A huge thank you to Nick for his incredible commitment and support. If you are interested in finding out how you or your company can support Spread a Smile and help spread smiles to seriously ill children and their families, please get in touch by email today. We’ll look forward to hearing from you.