Sparkling Christmas campaign puts play first

With just two weeks until Bradford Hospitals’ Charity spreads some sparkle for Axl, the importance of play has been highlighted by our hospital specialists.

People across Bradford have been urged to wear something sparkly on Friday 14 December and raise money for Axl’s Toy Fund.

Axl’s Toy Fund pays for toys and specialist play equipment for children receiving hospital treatment throughout the year. From children who are poorly in hospital, patients of the Child Development Unit, and the children who are visited by specialist outreach teams in their homes – play is crucial for development, to speed up recovery, help children communicate their feelings and connect with their peers.

Sylvie Collins, consultant clinical psychologist in Bradford, said: “Play is crucial for healthy development. It’s how we all learn. It’s also important for developing coping strategies, managing emotions and problem solving. From a health and wellbeing perspective, it’s absolutely vital.”

Sylvie, who is based at St Luke’s Hospital, Bradford, said: “For children, play can help to normalise the situation they are in. It keeps them connected to everyday activities and distracts them from hospital routines. If we are playing and relaxed, there is research to support that we are better able to problem solve, be creative and adopt different coping strategies.

She added that art and play therapy also helps children share feelings. “Children are often trying so hard to keep everyone happy. They might not have the emotional vocabulary to express themselves, may be worried about what is happening. Playing gives them a chance to share how they are really feeling.”

Alison Kay, hospital play specialist at Bradford Royal Infirmary, explained that Axl’s Toy Fund enables play specialists to buy toys suitable for all children, including those with sensory impairments, mobility problems and other additional needs. For example, fibre optic lights, bubble tubes, flashing tambourines and light projectors are all helpful to stimulate senses and entertain children who don’t have the play skills for other toys.

She added: “Not only does play aid recovery, but it gets our young people talking. The toys and crafts bring our teenagers together too and I see them forming friendships and supporting each other. It also helps them open up about what’s upsetting them, which we might just be able to help with.”

Axl’s mum, Claire Gearie, said she was honoured to fundraise in Axl’s name. “Anything which makes hospital less scary and distracts children from their treatment, and the pain and discomfort they are in, makes a huge difference,” she said. “I have been that parent and I know how hard it is for the child and whole family.”

Hayley Collis, Head of Fundraising for Bradford Hospitals’ Charity, said: “It’s so important to everyone here at Bradford Royal Infirmary to be raising money in Axl’s name. He was a very popular little boy.

“We are so grateful to everyone who is supporting our campaign. Every penny raised will pay for brand new toys, play equipment and activities to make the time in hospital a little bit easier for our young people.”

To make a donation to Axl’s Toy Fund, visit

To find out more about what Bradford Hospitals’ Charity is doing for Christmas, visit Alternatively, contact Hayley Collis or Elaine Drake on 01274 274809 or email [email protected]