We’re proud to announce this year’s Mentor of the Year is Claire Hardy, the Lead Health Play Specialist for Radiotherapy Services at University College London Hospitals. Claire has been working in this field for the last 20 years, and is a regular proponent for the field and mentor for new starters.

This award is brand new this year, and extra special as all nominees were nominated by a fellow colleague they have gone out of their way to mentor since they joined the team.

Claire was nominated by Katie, her colleague she’s been mentoring for the past two years. Katie joined in the midst of the pandemic, and initially had trouble adjusting. Fortunately, Claire has been there for her to provide the extra support Katie needs to thrive in her career.

The passion and dedication Claire shows for mentoring me has made me feel that my learning journey was hers too, and together we got through my training as a team and did the best we could possibly do. Claire has become my mentor, teach and friend, and I feel incredibly lucky that I got to experience my training with her support.

Katie, Claire's mentee and friend

On top of mentoring Katie, Claire is supporting and providing play to children and young people as they undergo radiotherapy or proton beam therapy treatment. This support begins as they first meet the doctor in the clinic. By building a relationship with them and learning what they like and what their interests are, Claire is able to plan their treatment pathway and decide how she can best support them.

But throughout each child and young person’s treatment pathway, Claire ensures play as both a distraction technique and for entertainment is as involved as it can be.

Having a safe space for children in the hospital to play is so important. They know [our play room] is not a medical environment, and they often want to come back and stay longer in the hospital just to play after their treatment has finished.


Claire strongly believes in ensuring children have choice in play. Therefore, Claire and her colleagues always ensure each child has a variety of age-appropriate toys ready (and cleaned) to play with whenever they’re in hospital. She regularly relies on the toys and activities Starlight provides in our Distraction and Boost Boxes whenever a child is having to undergo a treatment and needs to stay still, such as having a cannula inserted or when they’re going through radiotherapy.

Furthermore, she always tries to include the family as much as she can, and when appropriate set up opportunities for the children on her ward to play with others who are going through similar situations.

Starlight makes a huge difference for children in hospital. Having Starlight resources on hand for when a child is going through treatment means they're still able to play and the hospital feels so much more normal.


We’re so happy to have Claire as our very first Mentor of the Year recipient. The work she is doing both in providing play for seriously ill children and young people at her hospital and in mentoring the new generation of Health Play Specialists is incredible and we’re so proud of her.

Visit our 2022 Play in Hospital Week hub to learn more about this year’s winners and see how else we’re celebrating.