The Foundation was established with an aim of helping to improve the lives of young children faced with life-threatening diseases and some with terminal illnesses. This was achieved by providing them with improved medical care along with fun and entertainment as a form of distraction from the medical situations surrounding their young lives and those of their families.
The Starlight Children's Foundation was established in 1982. Originally, it was only focused on making the wishes of children battling life-threatening conditions come true, however it has grown over time and is now registered as a charity in England and Wales.
It was founded by renowned film-maker, Peter Samuelson, and actress Emma Samms, his cousin. It all originated from a personal experience they had in losing a loved one to a disease. Jamie who was Emma's little brother, was diagnosed with aplastic anemia and after a long and courageous fight, he lost his battle against the disease. Emma's family, like any other, had a hard time coming to terms with the loss.
Touched by the plight of the children she had seen in the hospital while her brother was hospitalized, Emma made a point in visiting other sick children. One day, she met Sean, a young boy who was seriously ill with a brain tumour in hospital. As she was interacting with him, she learned that like many children, he had dreams. Indeed, he dreamed of visiting Disneyland. Later, she later discussed it with her cousin Peter and they agreed to make his desire come true. They arranged for Sean and his mother to visit Disneyland, all the way from London. This marked the initiation of what has now become a global foundation that helps donors to satisfy specific, but unmet hospital needs for children and their families directly and efficiently.
The Starlight Foundation started off as a wish-granting organization but has quickly and steadily expanded to include an extensive menu of unique family-centred programs in its services. This program no doubt initiated a unique cause, but also set a trend for other philanthropic causes. Some of the programs conducted besides the traditional wish lists include a mobile entertainment unit, comfort kits, tablets, sites and an online community for teens.
Paying for these programs, as well as other events undertaken through fundraising, the Foundation has achieved and maintained its role in supporting families with hospitalized children manage the numerous challenges of going through a medical journey. It brightens the lives of ill children by providing fun, entertainment, laughter and distraction in every hospital ward and hospice throughout the United Kingdom. This is mainly achieved by granting the wishes of the sick children. Besides fulfilling the children's wishes, the activities are aimed at distracting the children from the pain, fear and isolation they can often feel as a result of their illnesses and being away from their family members while receiving treatment in medical facilities.
The Foundation has become the pioneer of an online social network for patients through its programs such as the Starbright World®, the first-ever online community for teens with chronic and life-threatening medical conditions and their siblings. Here the teenagers along with their friends and loved ones are able to meet and share their experiences and encouragements with others going through similar journeys in life.
Such incredible events are made possible by efforts of the Foundation to partner with experts in the crucial sectors of health care, technology and entertainment. Together, they come up with exceptional services that work and blend well with both the hospital environment and the transition to the home environments.
The Foundation also partners with several health care facilities and is currently working with over 1,750 major paediatric hospitals and health care facilities around the world, serving millions of children every year. The Foundation mainly works through its partnerships, thus enabling it to meet the needs of partner facilities.
These partnerships work significantly in providing the much needed opportunities to increase public awareness about its operations to a varied range of audiences, thus promoting greater engagement in our endeavours. As a result, the Foundation benefits from individual contributions, as well as corporate commitments to its events and programs. The support comes in various forms such as program and event sponsorships, cash contributions, product promotions, customer donation drives, and fundraising campaigns, as well as budget relief contributions.
Starlight Foundation is termed as a small children's charity. However, it has an enormous impact on the lives of those that its programs minister to. When it started, it helped only about four children but it has grown substantially over the years in terms of its reach. Today, it helps over half a million children annually in the United Kingdom alone and millions more the world over. Some of the Foundation operating offices can also be found in the United States, Australia and Canada besides those in the UK.
Starlight Children's Foundation partners with experts to improve the life and health of kids and families around the world.
The programs offered by Starlight take place both in hospitals where they reach out to the hospitalized children, as well as outside of hospitals for sick children. Although largely similar, these programs may differ depending on the region at which the Foundation operates. Programs offered in hospitals include hospital playrooms, gaming systems and creativity kits. On a broader spectrum, they are commonly known as the Starlight Hospital Happenings, the Starlight Fun Centres and the Starlight Sites. These programs are available to children while undergoing treatment in hospitals and serve as a sure source of happiness for these children despite the not-so-pleasant medical procedures they may be undergoing.
For the out-of-hospital programs, there are the Great Escapes, which are recreational retreats which range from downhill skiing to movie screenings, as well as the famous once-in-a-lifetime wish-granting for special kids. In the broader terms, they are commonly referred to as the Starlight Great Escapes and the Starlight Wishes. During the Foundation's existence, over 2,000 children have had their special wishes granted.