Our Story

Once Upon a Smile was founded in August 2011, by Daniel Jillings and Danny Miller, to provide emotional and practical support to bereaved families, after it became apparent that there was a lack of support for families after the death of a loved one, specifically a parent or child/sibling.

We understood that families are often left to grieve alone with no, or little support available and this can often have a devastating impact on family life and children.


We Had 3 Initial Principles


It has to be long term support

It must be needed

Families must come first

We decided that we would support bereaved families at their time of need, now we just needed to determine, how.

Once we decided how we wanted to support, the name quickly followed, Once Upon a Smile.

A charity that provides support to bereaved families after the death of a parent or child/sibling by offering financial support and respite breaks.

We knew new needed to be methodical in how families could access the support we was providing and decided on allowing referrals to be made on behalf of families by hospitals and hospices.

We understood early on that the most important attribute would be ‘long term support’, and knew the charity would need to be based on a solid financial infrastructure.

The First Few Years We


Chose an ‘Assistance Fund Budget', each year and had those funds readily available

This meant, If we had a poor fundraising year, we could still access financial support for our families

In 2013, we saw an increase in referrals  from hospitals, hospices and charities. We made a decision to ensure educational authorities such as schools and colleges was aware of the support that we provided.

Once schools began to make referrals, we found that a large percentage of these referrals was seeking children’s bereavement support for their pupils.

We identified that as well as a severe lack of support of this kind, where this support was available there was often a large waiting list or a compulsory ‘grieving time’.

We were shocked at how children were not being offered the support they needed and the common rule of a ‘grieving period’, for those that were able to access such support.

Additional Support Type Added

Having identified a severe lack of support to children who have suffered the loss of a loved one, we have launched our own Children’s Bereavement Support Groups (CBSG). The group are for children and young people who have been bereaved of a parent, main carer or sibling.

Our groups are held in a fun and safe environment where children take part in fun based activities, allowing children to understand and express their emotion.

The group sessions allows the children to build friendships with other children who have been through a similar experience and allows the children to discover they are not alone in being bereaved of a parent or sibling.

Our Team Grows

Bereavement Support Workers

In 2017, children’s bereavement support become our most requested support type with both primary and high schools making a high percentage of referrals.

Our bereavement team grew from 1 full time member of staff to 3.

We identified the need for the charity to purchase a property that offers the opportunity of privacy and space to ensure we can maximise and increase the number of support groups and types available to us.

Our own property will be a dedicated children’s bereavement centre and headquarters.

There Were Many Things To Take Into Consideration.

The location of the property

Has to be easily accessible

In March 2019, we opened the doors to SIDLEY HOUSE, Manchester’s first dedicated children’s bereavement centre.

Sidley House is a dedicated bereavement centre and head office of Once Upon a Smile and has rooms dedicated to specific activities to allow bereaved families to express in a fun and safe environment both in groups and individually.

Sidley House

Front of Sidley House