Toy Trust partners with charities Spread a Smile and Starlight

The Toy Trust has announced that it will be supporting two inspiring children’s charities this year as part of the Big Challenge event, which takes place on Saturday 18 June 2022.

Spread a Smile and Starlight will partner with the Toy Trust to provide relief and positive play experiences to seriously ill children in hospital.

The Toy Trust Committee has recognised the potential negative impact the last two years will have had on a large number of children and young people across the UK, and so in 2022, the Toy Trust will partner with two charities who use the power of play and specialist medical equipment to provide relief and support to children who are hospitalised with severe illnesses, and who are committed to improving children’s mental wellbeing.

The first of these is Spread a Smile – a charity that works specifically for children in hospitals across the UK. Its NHS partner hospitals include Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), University College Hospital (UCLH), The Evelina Children’s Hospital, King’s College Hospital, Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice (Barnet), Demelza Hospice, Southampton Children’s Hospital, Nottingham Children’s Hospital, Leicester Children’s Hospital, Addenbrookes Children’s Hospital (Cambridge), Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, and Christie Hospital (Manchester).

The Toy Trust’s donation to Spread a Smile will fund a two-year programme providing specialised play provision for children with a disability or sensory impairment, and services specifically targeted at supporting children with additional needs, such as young deaf, blind and deaf/blind patients.

Play sessions with entertainers proficient in the deaf/blind manual alphabet, sensory play incorporating music sessions with professional musicians, and therapy dog visits are all included to promote positive physical and mental wellbeing, reduce children’s anxiety levels and blood pressure and provide a welcome distraction from the monotony of the hospital environment. The scheme will impact more than 600 children across the country.

Support has also been pledged to Starlight, a charity also working throughout the UK with children who are in hospital. Starlight’s research has shown that more than half of UK hospitals who apply for their services have no access to any play resources. As a result, delivering specialised care to children with complex needs can be incredibly challenging. Many procedures, tests and scans can take much longer and can become traumatic for those children.

Specialist equipment such as sensory units, toys and games significantly reduces the short- and long-term psychological impact of serious illness for children. Working with The Toy Trust will mean that Starlight can continue to deliver urgently needed support to families whose child is facing a serious illness and ensure that they have access to quality play resources across the NHS.

In agreement with Starlight, the Toy Trust will purchase three Rhino Sensory Voyagers, which come fully equipped with hurricane tubes, fibre optic tails, a disco ball, speakers and a projector, turning any space into a sensory room. They’re designed to distract children and can significantly reduce anxiety, pain and distress during treatment.

To further enhance the Toy Trust’s donation, Starlight has also pledged to match the Toy Trust by purchasing another three Rhino Sensory Voyagers to reach even more children. These purchases are expected to impact more than 3,000 seriously ill children each year.

Lucy Jackson, CEO of Spread a Smile, says: “Partnering with The Toy Trust will allow us to increase our support of seriously ill and hospitalised children with additional needs. Through our programme of enhanced play and entertainment using sensory equipment and focusing on audio/visual language, together we will help distract children from pain and treatment, reduce their anxieties and spread smiles at the most difficult of times.

“Enhancing the quality of life and wellbeing of seriously ill children and their families lies at the heart of our work and we thank the Toy Trust for its commitment and look forward to building a strong partnership.”

Graham Canning, Toy Trust Chairman, commented: “We are extremely pleased to be partnering with and supporting both Spread a Smile and Starlight this year. The Toy Trust Committee felt strongly that both these charities carry out incredibly good work to improve the lives of children who are unwell and in need of support in the most trying of circumstances.

“Both charities are aligned with our belief, as an industry, that play can bring some of the greatest benefits to children in their daily lives as well as providing relief and encouraging resilience when facing challenges. Through our support, we know that both charities will provide enormous benefits to a huge number of children across the country.

“I would also encourage colleagues and toy industry friends to sign up now to this year’s Big Challenge event which will be an opportunity to come together as an industry to challenge ourselves, have fun and raise as much money as possible for the Toy Trust.”

The Toy Trust Big Challenge event takes place on Saturday 18 June, based at Wet N Wild in Wallingford, Oxfordshire. Events on offer include a 5km or 10km walk or run, 50km circular cycle ride taking in the Oxfordshire countryside and – new for 2022 – a Team Dragon Boat Tournament. The event is open to all, with individuals, small groups and larger teams all welcomed.


About Tessa Clayton

A former Chief Sub of Red magazine, Tessa Clayton is the Digital Editor of and ToyNews. As a freelance journalist she specialised in writing about parenting and family life, and has contributed to a wide variety of publications and websites including Tesco online, Mother & Baby, Livingetc, Junior, Boots Health & Beauty, Practical Parenting and Get in touch at

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