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All children deserve laughter

Since our very first visit to Great Ormond Street Hospital back in 1994, our Giggle Doctors have given joy and laughter to thousands of children during their treatment in hospitals, hospices, and specialist care centres. Our reach has continued to grow, and now, our 25 Giggle Doctors visit over 33,000 children each year.

Theodora Children’s Charity was founded by two brothers André and Jan, in memory of their mother Théodora Poulie. While they were growing up in Switzerland, André and Jan were given the freedom to be kids—to be silly, to be adventurous, to be themselves. Their childhoods were filled with experiments with fire, the little pleasures in life, and encouragements from their mother to live in the moment. 

Following a severe accident, André spent many months of his youth inside a hospital, undergoing 14 operations over the span of 2 years. Théodora transformed his painful experience by bringing games, songs, and stories to his bedside through her daily visits. Her presence served as André’s painkiller during his stay, and her positive energy from those brief visiting hours spread and remained, affecting the other kids in the ward as well.

When the two brothers’ father became ill, Théodora helped organise home care for him. She also helped her sons cope when their father eventually passed away. And later on, when Théodora herself was diagnosed with cancer, she continued to demonstrate incredible courage and resilience through humour. After her death, André and Jan decided to start a charity in memory of their mother using some of the money that their parents left them with.

Before the first visits from the Giggle Doctors, André visited the hospital where he spent most of his months back when he was a boy and spoke to the surgeon who operated on him. He easily convinced an oncologist, Dr Beck, who saw the psychological benefits of joy and laughter in children’s cancer treatment. He was even able to convince the head nurse who used to scold him and the other kids in his ward when they were caught playing with water-filled syringes. Afterwards, they recruited the first Giggle Doctors who would eventually go on to visit children in the Great Ormond Street Hospital on Théodora’s birthday in April 1994. Now, our Giggle Doctors give laughter to thousands of children across the country receiving medical treatment.

We hope you enjoy reading about our history and the significant moments that have helped shape the Theodora Children’s Charity today. Scroll down to learn more about our journey over the years.

Théodora was a happy, funny, always optimistic person. She exuded this positive energy which she would give to everyone she met. She was open to everyone and comfortable with everyone. And always incredibly kind-hearted.

-André Poulie

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