Bluebox 2024 Chosen Charity: Spread a Smile

May 14, 2024

Bluebox is pleased to announce that one of our chosen Charity’s for 2024 is Spread a Smile.


Can you tell us a bit about Spread a Smile and what your Charity is all about?

Spread a Smile brings joy and laughter to seriously ill children in NHS hospitals and hospices across the country.

Through in-person and virtual visits and events, Spread a Smile’s entertainers – from magicians to musicians, artists, fairies and therapy dogs – enhance wellbeing and help young patients and their families cope with the pain and anxiety of serious illness and hospitalisation.


What is the mission and vision of your organisation, and how do you work towards achieving them?

No child deserves to suffer with a life threatening illness. Undergoing weeks, months and often years of treatment in hospital can press pause on childhood and have a devastating impact on the emotional wellbeing of a child and their loved ones. Spread a Smile exists to spread joy and laughter; to ease the pain, to restore the magic of childhood and provide support to the whole family during an incredibly challenging time.

For any child, access to play is vital at any time, fostering a sense of belonging, inclusion and connection. Sadly, there are significant gaps in play resources in hospitals across the country, meaning many children do not receive support to cope effectively with traumatic treatments and procedures, which can have a significant effect on their well-being and compromise healthy development.

Since our founding in 2013, we have built a reputation for developing bespoke relationships with each family and each health setting, so that we can offer the most impactful support.

In 2024-25, we will deliver over 13,200 in-person bedside visits and over 2,640 virtual visits, in partnership with 32 NHS hospitals and four hospice partners. We plan to increase the number of partners to 45 this year.

We build meaningful relationships with our partner hospitals by listening to their needs, providing programmes that are tailored sensitively and appropriately to different healthcare settings.

We work closely with families to ensure a bespoke service, tailored appropriately to the needs and abilities of each child and young person we support. Our team check in regularly with families to ensure our services are fit for purpose throughout different stages of the illness journey.

We can turn around visit requests within 24 hours, especially important when working with children receiving end of life care. Flexibility and agility is key.

We employ the very best professional entertainers with the experience, ability and sensitive nature to work with children with additional and complex needs


Can you tell us about some of the main programs and initiatives your charity is currently involved in?

In person hospital visits – we deliver in-person and virtual hospital visits to children under the care of our NHS hospital partners. Supported by highly-trained Visit Managers, our incredible team of professional entertainers- magicians, singing fairies, musicians, artists and therapy dogs – work closely with hospital staff and family members to create an experience for each patient to meet their individual needs. Whatever each child’s situation, age or preference, we create an experience that helps make their journey through hospital and their treatment plan easier. Our entertainers also support specialist clinics, such as oncology or haematology, where families are often distressed, as they may hear bad news, or their child might need to go through a difficult or painful treatment.

Outings and Events – we deliver regular family-focused theatre trips, celebration events, tea parties and virtual events designed for whole families to enjoy. Siblings are included in all our events as they can often be overlooked when there’s a serious illness in the family. Events are much valued for bringing children and families together, creating treasured memories and reducing isolation. For those children in end-of-life care, it can be the last opportunity for a family to do something together.

Art Initiatives – Art is important in every child’s development. It encourages creativity, develops motor skills and heightens their ability to communicate and problem solve. For children in hospital, art related projects and activities provide a welcome distraction from treatment and the hospital environment. We run a programme of hospital workshops, art activities and clubs for children to enjoy in their beds, virtually or in communal play areas. We also create hand-painted, bespoke masks and moulds for young patients undergoing radiotherapy treatment for neck, head, brain and spinal tumours. Our resident artist works with children to design a unique mask of their choice. The 125 masks we delivered last year were so well-received; they make the whole process less frightening and provide a welcome distraction to traumatic treatment.


What are some of the biggest challenges your charity faces in fulfilling its mission?

The NHS is stretched and not all children in hospital get access to the play they need to help them through their treatment, which means the whole experience becomes far more traumatic. This means our work is in ever increasing demand but we don’t want to grow too quickly and compromise the quality of service we offer.

Providing a personal service to each family is incredibly important to us and this becomes more challenging as we grow and support even more families. We work really hard to ensure each family we support can continue to feel the love and warmth and that we can be there for them at the most difficult of times.

We’re operating in a difficult economic climate alongside lots of other brilliant charities which can make fundraising challenging. We have also struggled to recruit excellent fundraisers who are a good fit for our organisation and embody our culture and values but I’m pleased to report we’ve recently made some excellent hires and I’m so incredibly proud of the fundraising team we now have.

Our wonderful co-founders instilled in us a culture of kindness and compassion from day one and it’s a really important part of my role to ensure that is maintained at all times and in all aspects of our work.


Can you describe some success stories or notable achievements of your charity?

We’re incredibly proud to have significantly grown our hospital partners, going from 9 NHS hospital partners in March 2020 to 36 now, and all the time retaining the personal touch and a very high quality service.

During the Covid pandemic we weren’t allowed to make in person hospital visits so we pivoted incredibly quickly to start online visits. We thought this would be short lived but they proved so successful that we continue those online visits alongside the in-person ones.

See point above about recruiting a brilliant fundraising team!

Recently, our co-founders, Josephine Segal and Vanessa Crocker were awarded an MBE in the King’s New Year Honours for services to seriously and terminally ill children and their families. I can’t think of two people more deserving of this honour. They are the kindest, most selfless individuals I’ve ever met. I’m so proud of them both and they have taught me so much.


How does your charity collaborate with other organisations or partners to maximise impact?

We work closely with all our NHS hospital partners, ensuring we are there to fulfill their needs and be the best possible support we can to all their patients. We know one size never fits all.

We also work closely with the charity, Children with Cancer, supporting their patients and families and I’m so proud that we’re starting to work with other charities too, to bring smiles and laughter to their cohort of patients.


What are your plans for future growth or expansion of your programs and services?

I’m incredibly excited that we’ll be starting to deliver in person visits to hospitals in the Northwest of England this year. This is the first time we would have delivered regular in-person visits to a hospital outside of London and it’s a real test for us to ensure we can maintain a really high standard of entertainment in hospital and that it’s done in “the Spread a Smile way”. And by that I mean retaining our values and behaviours at all times.

By the end of March 2025 we want to be in 45 hospitals and hospices, growing from the 36 we’re in now.

Ultimately, our objective is to be delivering our full range of services to seriously ill children all over the country and we’re currently working on a strategy and plan for how we’re going to achieve that.


How can individuals or businesses get involved with your charity and support its work?

We are 100% reliant on individuals, companies and trusts and foundations to support our work and it will cost us £1.9m to deliver all of our work this year. We don’t receive any statutory income at all. We pride ourselves on delivering fun, meaningful and engaging opportunities for all our supporters. There are lots of opportunities for companies to get involved including through volunteering. For example, helping us in our office to pack gifts to be delivered to children in hospital or helping out at our family events. We also have spaces in some brilliant challenge events – whether you’re taking part as an individual or as part of a company – from the London Marathon to the Royal Parks Half Marathon, to abseils, sky dives, three peaks challenges and lots more. Our team are on hand to support throughout and we would be delighted to welcome you to the Spread a Smile family.

You can donate at

Each time we visit the bedside of a seriously ill child, it costs us £30, so you really can make a difference.

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