The UK toy industry charity The Toy Trust has announced that it will be supporting two inspiring and highly impacting children’s charities this year as part of its Big Challenge event, which takes place on Saturday June 18.

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 said it 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. So, in 2022, it is partnering 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.

Spread a Smile works specifically for children in hospital across whose 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 a programme of services specifically targeted at supporting children with additional needs such as deaf, blind and deaf/blind young patients. Play sessions with entertainers proficient in the deafblind manual alphabet, sensory play incorporating music sessions with professional musicians, and therapy dog visits are all included to promote positive physical and mental wellbeing as well as reducing the children’s anxiety levels and blood pressure as a welcome distraction to the monotony of the hospital environment. The scheme will impact more than 600 children across the country through this dedicated project.

Toy Trust

Starlight works throughout the UK with children who are in hospital. Its research has shown that more than half of UK hospitals who apply for their services have no access to any play resource. 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 incredibly 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 children are facing serious illness and will ensure 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 are designed to immerse children in distant worlds 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 three Rhino Sensory Voyagers to reach even more children. These purchases are expected to impact more than 3,000 seriously ill children each year.

“Partnering with The Toy Trust will allow us to increase our support of seriously ill and hospitalised children with additional needs”

Lucy Jackson, CEO of Spread a Smile

Lucy Jackson, CEO of Spread a Smile, said: “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.”

Adrian Voce, head of policy and public affairs at Starlight, said: “Starlight supports and protects play for some of the UK’s most poorly children. As play champions, the Toy Trust is a natural partner for us. The generous grant for Sensory Voyagers will enable us to bring this innovative specialist equipment to more children – helping to reduce the anxiety and distress which medical procedures can cause.”

“We are extremely pleased to be partnering with and supporting both Spread a Smile and Starlight this year”

The Toy Trust chairman Graham Canning

The Toy Trust chairman Graham Canning 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 and provide relief and encourage resilience when facing challenges. Through our support, we know that both charities will provide a lasting impact to a huge number of children across the country.

“I would also encourage colleagues and 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 through being involved.”

The Toy Trust Big Challenge takes place on Saturday June 18 at Oxford Wet N Wild in Wallingford, Oxfordshire, and places are available to enter now. Events on offer include a 5km or 10km walk or run, a 50km circular cycle ride taking 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 welcome. More information can be found at

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