Meet the team

We're a determined and creative team based across the UK, dedicated to protecting play for children in hospital and other healthcare settings.

If you’d like to join us and help seriously ill children play, laugh and do what they love, check out our latest vacancies. 

The Team

Cathy Gilman

Cathy Gilman

CEO

Cathy joined Starlight in September 2017 having been CEO of Blood Cancer UK for 10 years and a Director at the Willow Foundation. She joined the charity sector as a volunteer in 1999 following the death of her 8-year-old cousin from leukaemia. She’s on a mission to help improve the lives of families affected by serious illness, ensuring children experience a good childhood despite really challenging circumstances.

Cathy was born on a snowy day in Derbyshire. She still gets a child-like excitement when it snows, some of her best memories are of snowball fights, building snowmen and sledging - learning to sledge sitting on her Dad, who would be face down, steering with his feet. He’s 86 now, but they still build snowmen when it snows!

Dr Krutika Pau

Dr Krutika Pau

Deputy CEO, Director of Children’s Services

Krutika joined Starlight in June 2019, after a 30 year career in children’s services. Most of her career has been in central and local government working at the Department for Education (DfE) and various local authorities. She's been the statutory Director of Children’s Services in the London Borough of Brent and Slough Borough Council. Krutika was appointed by Ministers at the DfE as a Schools Adjudicator, has worked for Deloitte in Chile undertaking safeguarding audits in schools and more recently was at RNIB and at The Children’s Society as their Director of Children’s Services.

She’s committed to improving the experiences and choices of all children and families, particularly when they may be facing multiple challenges.

As a child, play meant being outdoors with friends in Pune, India, barefoot and in the sunshine!

Nicky Wade

Nicky Wade

Director of Finance and Resources

Nicky joined Starlight in May 2020, after spending four years as Director of Finance & IT at Nightingale Hammerson. As a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales, her early career was in audit practice, before working at British Military Fitness as their CFO.

She joined Starlight with a passion for working with committed people who drive change, making a tangible difference within the healthcare system for children.

Nicky’s playful childhood memory was writing and acting out Alice in Wonderland with the girl across the road – a club that was just the two of them, with membership cards and badges!

Sarah Woods

Sarah Woods

Director of Fundraising and Marketing

Sarah joined Starlight in September 2019. Starting out in TV production and publicity for EastEnders, she has also enjoyed a ten-year career at Comic Relief where she joined leading the media team before becoming Head of Marketing and Fundraising, helping to raise over £1 billion. She then became Director of Marketing and Audience Engagement at The Charity for Civil Servants.

With three children, Sarah is thrilled to help other children who are seriously ill. She loves that Starlight is ambitious and punches above its weight, which is what enticed Sarah into her role.

Her favourite childhood memory is playing action men with her brother, creating adventures and stories for them to act out round the house. Her brother loved it as she did all the different voices for each action man!

Amanda Kostryckyj

Amanda Kostryckyj

Service Insights Coordinator

My role involves research, insight gathering and youth participation. My current focus is advancing our youth engagement and integrating youth voice into service delivery and the direction of the charity.

For me, play means creativity and escapism. 

As a child, I was always making games using my imagination and playing with the boxes rather than toys. Now, I love playing online games (like Hogwarts Legacy) and having cosy games evenings with friends.

Sarah Grant

Sarah Grant

Media & Communications Manager

I’m Starlight’s Media & Communications Manager, and I look after the charity’s PR campaigns and make sure the public knows who we are, what we do, and why we are so important.

I’ve recently returned from maternity leave, and in my spare time, I love playing with my daughter and experiencing the joys of childhood all over again.

Her current favourite toy is a Cozy Coupe car, the same one I had many years ago!

Natasha Petrou

Natasha Petrou

Social Media and Digital Marketing Manager

I look after the Starlight you see on a screen; managing the socials you view on your phone to the emails that land in your inbox, and much more. No two days are the same and you must always be ready for content ideas; Digital marketing never sleeps.

To me, play simply means escapism.

My favourite childhood (and adult) game is The Sims 2; interior design and achieving self-actualisation appeal to the Virgo in me.

Jo Clancy

Jo Clancy

Designer

As a graphic designer, I present data and information in a visually appealing and meaningful way.

For me, play is how children explore their environment, express themselves, and learn about the world in a safe and joyful way.

I remember many happy childhood holidays on the Cornish coast, playing games on the beach, climbing rocks, and belly-boarding in the sea - memories that I now try to create for my own young children.

Maria Lam

Maria Lam

Head of Marketing and Communications

My role is to ensure people know about Starlight and understand our purpose, the importance of play, and why our services are crucial for children’s health and wellbeing.

As a child, my three siblings and I would indulge our creativity and escapism with role-playing games. We came up with all sorts of storylines that could last days.

As adults, we still reminisce and cry with laughter at the childlike plots and characters we invented.

Maria Niewęgłowska

Maria Niewęgłowska

Digital Marketing Officer

I'm Starlight's Digital Marketing Officer, which means I look over our social media and digital content! 

To me, play is a fundamental human drive that adults so often forget they need to tap into (and how fun it is to do so)! 

As a child, I loved playing with my Bratz dolls in my wooden dollhouse and making up stories with them. I also spent countless hours playing Sims 3. 

Jess Robjohns

Jess Robjohns

Marketing and Communications Officer

I work in the Marketing and Communications Team at Starlight, managing the stories we share externally and working on the charity's PR campaigns. I love working with the families Starlight supports, hearing and sharing their inspirational stories.

To me, play means freedom and laughing till it hurts! 

As a child I loved make-believe play which mostly involved Peter Pan, pretending I could fly and fighting off Captain Hook!

Damien Swaby

Damien Swaby

Video Producer

I'm a video producer with a passion for crafting narratives that delve into the depths of the human condition.

Play, to me, is the essence of freedom and the spark of creativity, an essential element that fuels imagination.

As a child, 'hide and seek' was my game of choice, offering not just fun but also a sense of adventure and strategic thinking, all while strengthening bonds with my peers.

Erica Johnston

Erica Johnston

Service Impact Coordinator

I am Starlight’s Service Impact Coordinator. I sculpt statistics and graphs from the evidence our families and healthcare professionals provide us in surveys and focus groups.

Play is my ultimate source of inspiration, encompassing creativity, freedom, and joy. Whether it's painting, video games, or just a funny conversation with friends, I find immense fulfilment.

As a child, I loved playing with my family’s golden retriever, acting out the film Homeward Bound every day!

May Shakespeare

May Shakespeare

Insight and Impact Manager

I oversee the day-to-day management of our research and evaluation projects, generating insights to evidence the need for and impact of Starlight’s services and of the broader health play sector. 

To me, play is all about imagination and taking yourself away to a different world. 

As a child, I loved to re-enact my favourite TV shows, such as Doctor Who – either with toy characters, or dressing up myself!

Natalie Aris

Natalie Aris

Relationship Manager

I am a Relationship Manager. I build and maintain relationships with the amazing people who access Starlight services, including our Health Play champions.

To me, play means the opportunity to learn, explore and feel free to be who you want to be. Play is everything, no matter the age, ability or interests.

Play builds relationships, confidence and brings a sense of belonging and normality. My favourite type of play as a child was role play.

Rhiannon Evans

Rhiannon Evans

Health Play Services Manager

I work with my team to develop, refine, and deliver high-quality health play resources (both physical and digital) to healthcare settings across the UK, ensuring we operate efficiently and effectively, making the most of our resources.

Play to me means freedom, creativity, and joyfulness for all, irrespective of age or disability.

I grew up in the countryside, and I loved playing out in the fields, dodging livestock and farmers!

Dr. Sandra Cabrita Gulyurtlu

Dr. Sandra Cabrita Gulyurtlu

Head of Insights and Impact

As Head of Insights and Impact at Starlight, I lead Starlight's Research, Evaluation and Participation. 

Passionate about children’s rights, I have long worked for academia and the third sector, driving research and insights to change legislation, policy and practice to create better outcomes for children and young people. 

To me, play means wonder, connection, and fun and is so integral to personal development. The joy of playing games like hungry-hungry hippos taught me that.

Adrian Voce

Adrian Voce

Head of Policy and Public Affairs

I have worked in children’s play, in different roles, since I became a volunteer playworker in 1979.

Apart from a career I love, to me play means humanity at our most vibrant and connected. I love this job because when children are playing, I see the unaffected energy and beauty that is the best of us.

My favourite play as a kid was epic games of run-outs with my brothers in the local woods.

Laura Walsh

Laura Walsh

Head of Play

I’m the Head of play. My role requires me to keep play and what children need at the heart of everything I do, while supporting the service delivery team to excel within a clear framework of outcomes. 

Play is, to me, the spark of creative force at the core of everything. 

As a child I could be found variously; singing, making up stories, playing in the muddy park, playing 40-40 home, and latterly ‘hanging about’.

Rory Traynor

Rory Traynor

Philanthropy Manager

I’m the Philanthropy Manager, responsible for managing relationships with our high-value donors. 

As a child, I loved playing with Lego and, as a parent, I now enjoy building kits with my two young sons. 

Play is all that matters to my children, and it provides them, and all children, with the chance to delve into their imaginations, express emotions and tell stories without limitations (and make a mess all over the house too!).

Joan Middleton

Joan Middleton

Individual Giving Manager

I am the Individual Giving Manager – persuading people to open up their hearts and wallets, building relationships and converting promises to pounds.

At the heart of play, for me, is curiosity and creativity, which are foundational to our existence. As a grown-up, I still find all the joy I did when I was a child in music, bubbles, words, and spontaneous surprise mini-adventures with friends (including furry ones) and family.

Jessica Carter

Jessica Carter

Corporate & Events Manager

I'm the Corporate & Events Manager responsible for organising and delivering our programme of events for major donors, including the Blenheim Ball and Raceday, as well as account managing corporate partners, including Amazon, Lights4fun and Ryman.

As an adult, I love playing board games indoors and having a big game of rounders outside, but I spent my childhood playing anything imaginative with my sisters.

Liberty Vallance

Liberty Vallance

Corporate and Events Coordinator

I'm the Corporate & Events Coordinator responsible for supporting the delivery of our programme of events for major donors, including the Blenheim Ball and Raceday, as well as account managing corporate partners, including Ryman, Square Mile Investment Consulting and Red Carnation Hotels. 

Growing up, I spent my time playing outside with my brothers and dogs, and as an adult, I continue to do so! I also like crafting, pottery, painting and jewellery-making!

James Ronaldson

James Ronaldson

Head of Finance

Play is something that everyone can do and enjoy. It's a language that everyone speaks and allows people of all ages to connect and create together.

In the time before computer games, my favourite childhood game was Subbuteo table football. My friends and I were in a local league and we each had our own team names, hand-painted strips, stadiums - even club crests. It might have been play but it was also serious!

Hannah Brooks

Hannah Brooks

New Business Development Manager

I'm responsible for identifying and creating opportunities for Starlight and onboarding new corporate partners.

From about 8 years old, I have been an avid Zelda fan, immersing myself in the fantasy game franchise until now, as well as being a fan of board games.

I’ve always been artistic since my childhood, rising from the ranks of finger painting and messy crafts to graduating with a Master's from Central Saint Martins. I’ve always loved being creative.

Sam Butler

Sam Butler

Head of Public Fundraising

I take an innovative approach to fundraising; for me, play plays a massive role in achieving that, as does my work with others, designing products, and the approach I take to tactics and strategy. 

Play helps me bring my best creative self to solving those problems.

My favourite game to play as a kid was to dress up as Indiana Jones, head off onto Dartmoor, and reenact the opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Samiya Rashid

Samiya Rashid

Community, Challenge and Events Fundraising Manager

I am the Community, Challenge and Events Fundraising Manager. With my team, I look after all the fundraising done by individuals and groups in the community. We also look after all the challenge events, like the London Marathon. 

Play to me means joy and connection. 

My favourite game as a child was the Carrom board; even though it really hurt your fingers, it was always fun to play with the family.

Alec De Mello

Alec De Mello

Supporter Experience Co-ordinator

Play means a few things to me. It helps me to be social and get some fresh air when I play field hockey with friends! 

As an introvert, I love relaxing in my off-time with a brand new videogame on my Playstation or Xbox – sometimes I’ve been anticipating a game for YEARS. 

A favourite childhood game of mine was 'A Bug’s Life' on the Playstation 1 – such a great story!

Wenda-Kate Randle

Wenda-Kate Randle

Head of Culture & Development

I support all of our colleagues in their contribution to our culture by being the very best they can be. 

Play means imagination and possibilities with no boundaries or limiting beliefs to me. Anything can be anything! 

As a child, the shower cubicle in the bathroom was an elevator taking me to a magical new land, and the funny tree stump in the garden was my pony!