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May 22, 2021

Grant amount: £32,400

Theodora Childrens Charity

  • Grant programme: Positive Futures
  • Region: South East

Towards the cost of Giggle Doctor visits at the Royal Marsden Hospital and Young Epilepsy

About the organisation

At Theodora Children’s Charity we have helped children living with illness, disability and serious health challenges to feel better using the proven power of laughter for 30 years. Our vision is to contribute to the wellbeing of children in the 14 core hospitals and specialist care centres we visit across England, as well as those we support virtually. Giggle Doctors are professional performers who undergo specialised 2 year training to equip them to work in hospitals, specialist care centres and with children who have disabilities or complex needs and there is never a financial cost for the visit to the parents or children.

Organisation’s objectives

By combining music, play, magic and storytelling our 21 Giggle Doctors bring joy and laughter to children in challenging times, no matter their background or illness. From Dr Boogie Woogie to Dr Teapot, our Giggle Doctors wear their very own ‘doctor coats’, which represent their character, and spend time one to one with the children. Giggle Doctors create opportunities for children to play and interact through a range of musical and fun activities.  Sometimes they will make balloon animals and blow bubbles, and at other times they will sing a funny song or simply listen and talk to a child one to one.

The play is always child – led, with each interaction being unique to the child and their needs. A Giggle Doctor visit isn’t just about one magical moment, it can have a significant and lasting impact on a child’s well-being. With each visit, the aim is to reduce stress and anxiety, increase opportunities for play, and improve children’s experience of hospitals.

About the project

Giggle Doctors at the Royal Marsden Hospital and Young Epilepsy

We are dedicated to improving children’s experience of hospital, from somewhere that can be very scary and isolating, into a place of fun, laughter or even calm companionship. We achieve this through our Giggle Doctors, who are specially trained performers that visit children facing huge challenges with their health. Our Giggle Doctors use music, magic, storytelling and performance to improve the wellbeing of children, always following the process of child-led play. This is because within medical environments, it has been shown that play supports children to express their feelings and worries, understand what is happening and be better able to cope.

The children our Giggle Doctors visit may require regular attendance at hospital for surgery and treatment or they could just be in hospital for a short period of time. However long the stay, undergoing treatments that are painful or uncomfortable means that a hospital experience can be very distressing and frightening for a child. Children needing specialist care and treatment can spend weeks or even months away from friends, school and family, resulting in feelings of boredom and isolation. It also means they can lose opportunities for play which they would otherwise have had in their everyday lives and which are such an important part of childhood.

Impact of PHF’s support

Across our 14 current core hospital partners in England, we ensure we collect various data so that we can present the impact of our work to our supporters; both in quantitative and qualitative forms. As a result we have found that:

  • 100% of parents/carers said Giggle Doctor visits improved their child’s hospital experience
  • 93% of parents/carers said Giggle Doctor visits reduced their child’s stress and anxiety
  • 88% of parents said visits reduced their child’s isolation
  • Over 70% of parents said a virtual visit improved their child’s mood
  • Over 50% of parents said a virtual visit reduced stress/anxiety

We are proud that our Giggle Doctors are trained to be able to bring joy and relief to children aged 0-18 years with a variety of Special Educational Needs, and that they will help any children within the hospital wards they visit, no matter their background or illness.  We hope that every child will feel empowered after a visit from a Giggle Doctor, where they are able to lead the interaction and have autonomy over what happens – which is so often not the case when receiving treatment. We are also proud that no family or recipient of a visit from a Giggle Doctor has to pay for it, and this is where the generous funding of Peter Harrison Foundation comes in.

As a result of the kind grant we received over three donations from the Peter Harrison Foundation, our Giggle Doctors were able to visit 2,481 children at the Royal Marsden in Surrey and 631 in Young Epilepsy. That is over 3,100 children who have benefited from an interaction with one of our fantastic Giggle Doctors as a result of your support.

We are continuing to visit children at the Royal Marsden Hospital, as well as in hospitals across England and the South East; including Southampton and Brighton. We also recruited 4 new trainee Giggle Doctors at the end of 2023, which means we will eventually have 25 Giggle Doctors, visiting children across the UK.

How does the organisation exemplify PHF’s values?

We are proud to exemplify your values, as shown by two recent Case Studies of children who met Giggle Doctors at The Royal Marsden hospital:

“Charlie’s face lights up when he sees the Giggle Doctors, and you can see he forgets for a while that he’s having treatment. Having gone so long where the Giggle Doctors weren’t on the wards, they make so much effort with every child in the hospital (and adults) and bring so many smiles to faces. Charlie’s mind is instantly taken away from what he’s facing in hospital.

They are silly and fun, just what children like. They are so friendly and kind, very approachable and make such a difference to treatment days. Charlie spots a Giggle Doctor from the other end of the corridor and makes sure he gets their attention…one week, Dr Dotty and Charlie were daring each other to do silly things and had parents and nurses in fits of laughter. Amazing people doing an amazing thing that children, and families, will never forget.”

Kirsty, Charlie’s mum

“Your Giggle Doctors brought a smile to my child’s face when he was very sick. They were so kind and genuinely funny people and even towards the end when he was at home, he was sent a slug to cheer him up. These were all taken in Brighton but he also saw them at the Royal Marsden. The last photo was during his last weeks of his life and he still had a smile on his face thanks to your wonderful team. Thank you for all you do. It means so much at such hard times. Your team helped Fletcher (and his family) lots.”

Sarah, Fletcher’s mum