Malawi Solar Lights
Spread a Smile

Charity Overview

When a child is first diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, the focus is primarily on treating their illness and keeping them safe and alive. For those requiring long-term hospitalisation, it can have an overwhelmingly negative effect on their emotional wellbeing, and they can become anxious, scared, isolated and lonely.  

From the moment of diagnosis, Spread a Smile has a direct impact on the wellbeing of critically ill children.  The charity’s entertainer visits, outings and events and art initiatives, bring joy and laughter to seriously ill children and teenagers during long hospital stays - distracting them from pain and treatment, breaking the monotony of the hospital environment and creating positive memories for them, their parents and siblings.  The charity partners with specialist peadiatric NHS hospitals such as Great Ormond Street, University College Hospital, Evelina Children’s Hospital and the Royal Marsden to enhance their play provision for young patients and provide support which would otherwise not be available. 

 Please note - all images were taken pre-pandemic

Project Summary

In March 2020, when the first lockdown was implemented, Spread a Smile was quick to respond to the impact of the pandemic. Within weeks the charity launched Smile TV featuring pre-recorded entertainment and began offering seriously ill children virtual entertainer visits.  The last 18 months have been hugely challenging for all charities, but the agile nature of Spread a Smile, coupled with its talented team of entertainers, has meant it has continued to meet increasing patient demand throughout the pandemic.  The charity is currently supporting thousands of children under the care of its network of NHS hospital partners with virtual activities such as entertainer visits, Smile Parties, activity days, afterschool clubs and art workshops as well as the delivery of boredom busting activity packs and treat drops.

Sam joined the magic and science activities. He really enjoyed taking part in the day and being able to interact with other people which is so lovely as he’s still shielding so not able to meet up with friends.
Parent of patient

Funding from ICAP Charity Day has been instrumental in this growth enabling the charity to increase its virtual activity days during the school holidays and helping children to celebrate their birthdays with a virtual Smile Party.  Virtual activity days have included character visits for younger children with SKYE from Paw Patrol, Paddington Bear, Spiderman and Princess Elsa from Frozen, art workshops including drawing and watercolour tutorials, festival make-up masterclasses for teens, online treasure hunts, interactive science demos and more.  At a time when many critically vulnerable children must continue to isolate in hospital or shield at home, these activity days provide age-appropriate virtual entertainment and play that reduces anxieties, rebuilds lost confidences and maintains their connectivity with friends and family.

Life in hospital has been so difficult for seriously ill children throughout the pandemic, but being able to create a virtual party where they can have so much fun with their family and friends has been wonderful to see. My patient couldn’t stop talking about all the magic at their party and what a brilliant time they had.
Amy Crowley, Play Specialist at Great Ormond Street Hospital

Smile Parties funded by ICAP Charity Day enable the charity to support a seriously ill child in celebrating their birthday.  The child selects their favourite entertainer (magician, musician, artist or fairy) and the charity will arrange the rest including inviting their friends and family to the virtual party, sending out any art or craft materials required and hosting the party on the day.