Play Leader Tonya Webber at Southampton General Hospital is the recipient of our first ever Power of Play Award. This award is incredibly special because nominations were submitted by the families of patients.

Tonya regularly uses creativity and fun activities to help ease her patients through their treatments and recovery. From making ice-cream parlours out of felt and pompoms to make dinosaur masks, Tonya focuses her energy on bringing a smile to the children’s faces through often tough, scary or boring ties at the hospital.

Tonya’s dedication and caring nature was recognised by the family who nominated her for this award. Since January of this year, Tonya has been supporting and caring for Matias (Matti), a six-year old boy waiting for a kidney transplant following renal failure, and his mum Marjorie, through their regular hospital visits for tests and treatments.

Matti was a broken little boy for a while and having that person that wouldn’t do horrible things to him and was there to bring fun meant the world to him and to us. Tonya is very dedicated to what she does. She deserves the recognition.

Mattie's mum Marjorie on the impact Tonya has had on their hospital visits.

Throughout his trips to Southampton Hospital, Matti has been supported by numerous Play Specialists and Leaders who help entertain and distract him, but with each visit he is most excited to see and play with Tonya.

Whether it’s making dinosaur masks, filling syringes with water to squirt at unsuspecting Play Specialists, or doing arts and crafts, Tonya focuses on what will bring a smile to Matti’s face.

Matti struggles at times with the interventions, tests and procedures he undergoes. Having Tonya, who is able to solely bring some fun to his day rather than stress or pain, is so important to Matti and his family.

Marjorie regularly feels the difference Tonya makes to their time in the hospital, so felt she was more than deserving of this award.

Tonya says she feels honoured to receive this award, and wishes her mum who was a play lead at a playgroup and a great inspiration to Tonya, was still with her to hear about it.

Bringing play into children’s lives when they need it most and knowing that their day is made better is, for Tonya, what it is all about.

I feel so humbled and honoured to have this award. I really do… It means so much to be able to be with the children. You get patients asking for you and they say they want to do this and it is amazing. You can go up to a child that doesn’t want to do anything and they do it and love it. It is very rewarding.

Meet the other Play In Hospital Week 2021 winners and find out more about how we’re celebrating.