Fun fights fear and wins every time.
This is the belief of the Starlight Children’s Foundation, which, when a once-bright life becomes dulled by needles, hospital visits and painful treatments, helps sick kids to forget their illness and rediscover the joys of childhood.
Since 1988, the foundation has partnered with Australian medical professionals to develop programs based on positive psychology principles that support the total care of children and teens.
One of the beneficiaries of the program, little Alder Ashton, is based at John Hunter Children’s Hospital.
Alder underwent surgery after he was born with a defect and had a large portion of his small intestines removed, which left him with short bowel syndrome.
The now 11-month-old has spent his whole life in hospital, but two volunteers are helping to provide a welcome distraction throughout the ordeal.
“We’re Captain Starlight – we live on Planet Starlight and were chosen by Nana Starlight to fly down on the rocket ship to Earth every day and we’ve been lucky enough to land at the John Hunter Children’s Hospital,” one of them said.
“We get to meet wonderful families, resilient and brave children and we try to deliver smiles, laughter and positivity through distracting interactions.
“One of the amazing families that we’ve had the pleasure of meeting is Alder and his family.
“We do things like sing lots of nursery rhymes, dancing and sensory play because we know that those distraction techniques can make a really positive difference for a child’s recovery.”
Alder’s mum, Sophie, said the two Captain Starlights were introduced to her son at the hospital’s Natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) when he was just a few days old.
Since then, they have been able to break up his oft-mundane routine by providing bouts of much-needed entertainment.
“He gets so excited when he sees them, he’s always dancing and smiling,” Sophie said. “It definitely breaks the routine and gives him something to look forward to – he always knows it’s going to be a good time when they walk in the door.”
Despite his tough start to life, Alder has improved in recent times and there is hope he may be able to leave hospital before his first birthday.
Visit starlight.org.au for more information of the foundation’s work or to donate to the cause.