About Starlight

We're the national charity for children’s play in healthcare, supporting children to experience the power of play to boost their wellbeing and resilience during illness.

We advocate for play professionals, support families, and empower children to experience the power of play.

What we believe

Play is not a choice; it’s crucial to the health and wellbeing of children. Evidence shows play opportunities in healthcare settings reduce the fear and distress that many children feel, while health play specialists’ support can mitigate the pain and trauma of treatment, in addition to creating economic benefits for the NHS.

We want to enable all UK children to have their right to play protected and provided for during their healthcare.

2.4 million

The amount of times our health play services were used in 2022.

Our History

We do everything we can to protect childhood for seriously ill children. That’s been the case since 1986, when Emma Samms and Peter Samuelson founded Starlight. Emma had fundraised to help her young friend Sean, who had a brain tumour, visit Disneyland. She saw the impact that trip had not just on Sean, but on his whole family. Emma decided to set up a children’s charity so many more kids and families could feel the same way – and Starlight was born.

The memory of a childhood illness can impact for life. If we can make it a little bit more interesting, they may not have such awful association with their illness or experience.

Healthcare provider

Find out more about our life-changing work