Protector of the Year Runner Up: Louise Oliver

Starlight is proud to announce the runner up for this year’s Protector of Play award is Louise Oliver, a Play Leader at Southampton General Hospital.

Our Protector of Play award is a special non-Health Play Specialist award that spotlights the hospital staff that work alongside Play Specialists to provide play and distraction to children.

Louise has been a Play Leader for 5 years, and as colleagues and patients’ family members alike say, she’s an amazing play leader who has helped so many children in hospital.

Louise is an absolute breath of fresh air. Everything she does on the wards is for the children, young people and their families. She puts her heart and soul into everything she does, whether that's taking part in some very messy play and sensory sessions or being the person for the parents to lean on during difficult times.

Claire, Louise's colleague

Louise works on the neurological ward, so she mostly works with children with developmental problems. Working closely with the physio team, Louise tailors children and young people’s play sessions around their needs to improve their motor skills. With Louise’s touch these sessions end up being playful and fun as much as they’re beneficial.

She also uses play for children with mental health conditions. Louise knows how important it is for these children to have someone not medical support them and advocate for their needs. Through play, Louise can make the hospital experience that may be particularly overwhelming for these children much more positive.

My role is to provide therapeutic, developmental, sensory, and rehab play with children and young people in hospital, and to try and create pockets of “protected play” time and fun. So much is out of their control when it comes to medical treatment, however, “Play” is one area where they can regain some.


Louise regularly uses Starlight Boost and Sensory Boxes in her work. The Boost Boxes are filled with toys and games Louise can give a child when they come to hospital for a treatment or test to distract them. The child can then keep the toy or game as a reward for doing so well leaving them feeling better about the hospital than they did when they first arrived.

Our Sensory Boxes are designed for those children and young people who have complex needs and can’t play as other children do. These boxes are filled with squishy toys, sound tubes, messy play and so much more. They help Louise with neuro rehab patients develop their motor skills and build up strength in their hands.

Another ward at her hospital has the Starlight Rhino Sensory Unit, a portable device that can turn any room into a sensory room. In addition to their established sensory room, the Rhino Sensory Unit comes in handy for those children who are bedside. Louise is able to bring sensory play to them and turn their boring hospital room into an exciting sensory playground.

On top of providing as much play as she possibly can, Louise has become an incredible support system for the parents and carers of her patients. From setting up fun activities for the parents to get involved with to giving them a moment to take a coffee break or speak to the doctor to simply being a should to lean on and providing an ear to listen, Louise does what she can to support the entire family as much as the seriously ill child.

From the minute we walked into the door, Louise made herself known and gave me and my daughter endless amounts of support and play sessions! Louise always went above and beyond for not only my daughter, but also myself and any visitors we would have.

Dana, a patient's mum

We’re so proud Louise is this year’s Protector of Play Runner Up. As a Play Leader, she goes above and beyond to provide play to every child and young person who comes through her ward as well as support the entire family. The very definition of a Starlight Protector of Play.

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