Spread a Smile, the charity that provides in hospital and virtual entertainment to critically ill children and their families held its first-ever Summer Party on Wednesday 3 August, which proved to be the biggest and best event they’d ever and they’re thankful to everyone who made it such a success, including IKEA which donated 130 teddy pandas and 200 blankets for the party.
In total, over 613 guests enjoyed the party: 330 patients and their siblings, 261 family members and carers plus 22 play specialists and the Spread a Smile team said “Seeing so many familiar faces was wonderful, especially outside of a hospital environment, in sunny Coram’s Fields in London.”
For many, the summer party was a rare opportunity to get off the wards to spend time having fun with their family. So many of the children the charity supports require constant care or are required to isolate in their rooms. Giving them an opportunity to celebrate and spend quality time with their family makes a huge difference in their lives and allows them to experience some normality for a day. Opportunities like this party are few and far between for these families.
The children who came had no shortage of things to do, and they enjoyed stations for face painting, teddy bear t-shirt decorating, sensory play, aromatherapy for parents, arts and crafts, magic, animals and so much more! The kids all got stuck in and were able to try everything, and it was amazing to see them moving from table to table to try all the activities. One particular favourite was where they could design clothes for the hundreds of soft toy pandas provided by Ikea or shoot the Nerf guns into the target with our friends from Hasbro.
As well as this, there were some amazing sweet treats! Lola’s Cupcakes came with their trailer where you could design your own flavours, while Crosstown doughnuts brought incredible mini doughnuts to sample.
On the main stage, there were performances from some of the Spread a Smile favourite entertainers, many of whom the children will have met during virtual visits or on Smile TV, but were able to meet in person for the first time. This included the incredible Judge The Poet and Captain Calamity. For music-obsessed guests, there were sing-alongs with fairies Jasmin, Danny, Ellie, Tasha, Becca and Kirsten and amazing singers, Collette and Joanna. The children had a great time dancing and singing to their favourite songs, while Krisgar and Tricky Teddy provided some magical entertainment.
The team added: “The most rewarding part of the day for us was seeing the joy we were able to bring to these children and their families. It was a delight to watch them arrive with a smile on their face and anticipation to get stuck into the activities or watch the activity on the stage. We spoke to parents who felt relieved and emotional at seeing their child having a great time, and experiencing some normality away from the hospital.”
One of these children was Jacob, who at five years old was attending his second ever party! Jacob has spent a significant amount of his life in hospitals, since first falling ill at 18 months old. Since then, he has spent a lot of time in at Great Ormond Street Hospital following bone marrow transplants, which required him to isolate himself for long periods. This has impacted Jacob’s ability to socialise and start school, but through our virtual sessions, he was able to sing and dance. Being able to host him and his mum at the party was such an immense privilege, and seeing him interact with our entertainers in person was touching.
As one mum said: “We have had the best day. You really don’t know how much this event has boosted my confidence to get out and do something. Leo being immunosuppressed after his heart transplant obviously makes him very open and vulnerable to infections but straight after clinic today we crossed that road and entered the park. I was anxious with the volume of people but my goodness I shouldn’t have been. Leo who has never ever had a summer out of hospital after going in at 8 months old and coming out at 2 years old. I always wondered how he would adapt to life outside… he embraced everything!!!! Thank you for getting us out and in a community where we feel safe, secure and happy. What I saw from Leo today was bonding, laughter, interaction and lots of new things to explore. I owe you the world and can’t find the words to thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
Another said: “What a dream today has been. Thank you so much Spread a Smile for a magical day. Everyone was thoroughly spoilt and Kallie had the best day. From seeing her favourite fairy to the bubbles to the treats to the singing, today has been a dream. We are truly lucky to have such an amazing charity supporting Kallie and many other children who deserve the world and more throughout their journeys.”