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5 Minutes with Theodora Children’s Charity | Your Cancer Services

02 September 2022 - by David Allen

Each year around 1,800 cases of childhood cancer are diagnosed in the UK. It is the important work of organisations like Theodora Children’s Charity that make living with cancer in children easier. The charity has a simple aim – to help children living with illness, disability and serious health challenges to feel better using the proven power of laughter. We spoke to the team to find out more.

Tell us about your organisation? 

Our team of Theodora Children’s Charity Giggle Doctors have been creating warm, caring, joyful encounters for children in hospitals and specialist care centres nationwide since 1994. 

We’re proud to be part of an international family of charities founded in memory a truly wonderful mum called Théodora. When her son André spent many months in hospital as a child, Théodora used the short visits she was allowed to bring all kinds of stories, games and fun to raise his spirits. André and his brother Jan recognised how special this was, and felt that every child in hospital should be able to have the same, so after their mum passed away, they founded Theodora Children’s Charity to continue her legacy of play.

What services do you offer people living with cancer?

Giggle Doctors use skills such as improvisation, music, clowning and magic to create encounters unique to each child they meet, responding to their interests, personalities, and how they are feeling.

They visit children in lots of different hospitals around the country from Southampton to Bradford! You can see the list of where we visit by clicking here

If a child is receiving treatment at another hospital, specialist care centre, or at home, they can still have a wonderful Giggle Doctor encounter free of charge through a live Virtual Visit or a specially recorded Giggle-a-Gram. It’s just about as silly as it sounds – playing hide and seek, singing songs, magic tricks, or even just a chat! Learn more and book for free by clicking here.

Do you have a target demographic who use your services?

Giggle Doctors work with children (but mum and dad usually have a pretty good time too!)

How are you funded?

We’re a small charity, and we rely on the generosity of individual donors, corporate supporters and trusts and foundations. 

On October 2nd, we’re launching a 36hr crowdfunding campaign to help us bring smiles to even more children. Every donation given during this campaign will be doubled, so it’s a great chance to make a big difference! 

Watch our campaign video below to find out more, and click here to see the campaign!

How have things changed for you since COVID-19?

COVID-19 has made fundraising even more competitive in the UK which has made events like our Give a Giggle fundraising campaign more important than ever. 

We also used lockdown as a chance for innovation: Giggle Doctors got out into their local areas recording YouTube videos and we developed our glam new Virtual Visits and Giggle-a-Grams

What’s the most rewarding thing about the work you do?

Knowing that for thousands of children each year, and their parents and siblings, we’ve brought a moment of joy, a giggle, or simply calm to an incredibly challenging time. 

What would you say to those who are considering getting in touch with you but are nervous or apprehensive?

Take a look at our Giggle Doctor team here on our website and you’ll see that we’re a pretty approachable bunch! 

Do you have testimonials from people that have used your services?

Yes! Here’s what one parent told us recently: 

“Our boy went for his first walk post surgery which was a big deal for him. On our walk we met the Giggle Doctors, a lovely surprise and he smiled more than I’d seen in many days. Such a relief for everyone. I can’t thank you enough.”

We also caught up with Beth, a Play Assistant at North Manchester General Hospital just after Giggle Doctors returned for the first time after lockdown: 

“Having the Giggle Doctor visits back on the ward has felt like much needed normality. The visits have really made a difference and brought lots of smiles to lots of faces. We really appreciate their input and expertise and the calming impact their presence helps to create as well as a much-needed distraction.”

You can also see Sarah and Ellie talking about Virtual Visits here.

Who works for you?

25 miraculous, curious, funny, marvellous Giggle Doctors and tiny office team with 5 full-time and 1 part-time member of staff. 

What are the values of your organisation?

We bring enthusiasm to everything we do and aim to create an authentic bond of trust with each child to foster genuine interaction. We advocate for diversity and believe in care and play for all, regardless of background, ethnicity, religion, age, gender, condition, illness, or disability. We’re committed to excellence and understanding the present and future challenges children face in the medical sector. 

And finally, can you describe your organisation in 3 words?

Playful, caring encounters!

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