A spoonful of laughter helps the medicine go down

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<p>Every year, 2,500 children in the UK are diagnosed with a serious or terminal illness. For the people who care for them, one of the most important - but equally one of the hardest - things is to help the children remain positive, despite their illness and despite the gruelling treatment that has to become part of their daily routine. National charity, Starlight Children&#65533;s Foundation, exists to help lighten the load. As part of its work, Starlight organises over 500 parties, pantomimes and outings a year for hospitalised children. It helps distract children from the pain, fear and isolation of their illness with Starlight Fun Centres (mobile entertainment units equipped with a TV monitor, a combi video/DVD player and a Nintendo GameCube&#65533;) and specially designed Starlight Distraction Boxes. Starlight also brightens the lives of seriously and terminally ill children by granting a &#65533;once in a lifetime&#65533; wish. Last year alone, Starlight helped over 400,000 children by granting their wishes and by providing distraction therapy. To date Starlight has granted over 4,800 wishes for seriously and terminally ill children between 4 and 18 years. Starlight recently commissioned a report surveying over 600 children and 60 professional carers in hospitals and children&#65533;s wards around the country to investigate how much impact the national Starlight entertainment programme had on the children&#65533;s wellbeing. Find out the research results and how you can help Starlight help many more children by joining our live webchat with actress Emma Samms, Co-founder of Starlight and Starlight&#65533;s Chief Executive Neil Swan on Thursday 6th April at 4pm. Best know for her role on the popular 80s soap, Dynasty, this lovely London-born actress co-founded Starlight Children's Foundation as a tribute to her brother, Jamie, who died of aplastic anemia at age 8.</p>

Host: Mark Ryes (MR)

Guests: Emma Samms (ES) Neil Swan (NS)

MR: Hello and welcome to today's show. Every year, 2,500 children in the UK are diagnosed with a serious or terminal illness. They do say that laughter is the best medicine but, what's the best way of going about getting that laughter to them? Well, national charity, The Starlight Children's Foundation aims to provide a way of actually creating fun for children, creating a way that they can actually laugh and smile by providing wishes and also providing things in hospital for them and I'm joined today by the Chief Executive of the charity, Neil Swan and international actress, you'll know her from 'Dynasty' and 'Holby City', Emma Samms. Welcome along you two. Now Emma you are the co-founder of the charity.

ES: That's right.

MR: I wonder if you could start just by telling me how you got involved to start with.

ES: Well actually it goes back to when I was a child because when I was nine and my brother was eight, he was diagnosed with a disease called Aplastic Anaemia and in those days, it was before they had perfected the technique of bone marrow transplants, there was no way to cure Aplastic Anaemia and six months later he had died. My whole family, as you can imagine, was completely devastated by it and I, aged nine, was more than anything frustrated that I couldn't do anything to help. I couldn't help my brother, I couldn't help my parents and as I grew up that frustration stayed with me. Then, when I found myself in a career that I have as an actress, I suddenly realised there were actually things that I could now make happen thanks to my very lucky career and it seemed to make perfect sense to be able to do things for other children going through that and families experiencing something that I had experienced myself and in a strange way it's been very therapeutic for me because I've managed to get rid of a lot of that frustration.

MR: I bet, yeah. So Starlight started out in what – started out in 1987?

ES: Yes.

MR: And has been getting bigger and bigger and bigger and your figures now for helping children are really huge, aren't they.

ES: Yes and a lot of that is thanks to the man on my right ...

MR: Indeed, absolutely.

ES: ... who is amazing and now he's going to kill me afterwards for this but he is amazing. He has just made Starlight so successful in reaching so many more children than we had before he arrived.

MR: Yeah because you've been Chief Executive for what, five years now, haven't you, and really seen the fortunes of the charity really rise and that's through the hard work of your team and, of course, some of the people getting involved as well.

NS: Absolutely, you could never forget the fact Emma's idea of setting up Starlight was quite amazing and I think she completely undersells it. When the very first child that had a wish granted before Starlight arrived and it was Emma at her own expense, before she'd made it as an actress, flew this young lad and his family over to America and let him see Hollywood and do the Disney experience and so on.

MR: But had you thought, Emma, at the time, had you thought that that would be the start of something much bigger or was it just a personal thing that you did?

ES: Yeah, it wasn't really the start of something big at that point, I had met a little boy in hospital who had had a brain tumour. They hadn't been able to remove it all so he knew he didn't have very long and he was so desperate to see Disneyland and this was before EuroDisney and I just thought, 'I live in Los Angeles now, I can arrange that, brought him out there, of course hadn't thought about health insurance or any of those things that you really should when you've got a really ill child but luckily my father didn't say, 'Hang on, stop.' He just didn't mention it. As it turns out he did need some more medication when we were out there and with my great naivety we just showed up at the Emergency Room, the ER, and they just gave him the medicine. When they realised how seriously ill he was they didn't ask any questions which was very nice. But we showed him Disneyland and his mum and we flew him in by helicopter, we'd managed to wangle a ride in a helicopter and it was not just the look on his face that was just so magical, it was the look on his mum's face as she watched him and watched his face.

MR: Well it answers Sheila's question because she wanted to know how you got first involved with it and indeed you can actually get involved with the chat that we're doing this afternoon as well. You will notice on the screen that you're watching us on there's a little box just underneath where we are and you can submit a question to the studio live here via the moderators to come into me here so if you would like to join into the programme please do feel free to do that. We've actually had quite a lot of questions about wishes because one of the things the Starlight Children's Foundation does is actually grant wishes to sick children. Now, what kind of wishes, what kind of things do you get to hear about then, Nick?

NS: Well, there are all the things that you would expect. Kids want to go to Disneyland; they want a laptop computer, flatscreen TVs, all of those sorts of things. Very, very straightforward, very easy to do. Then you start getting wishes where they want to meet David and Victoria Beckham for example or Michael Schumacher.

MR: And I guess that's where connections, Emma, come into it very, very importantly. Hollywood actress, that's got to be helpful.

ES: Occasionally. My little black book isn't nearly as helpful to Starlight as Neil would wish but occasionally, there was a 'Holby City' wish for example, a couple of years ago which I was able to help with so that was good.

NS: Yeah, it absolutely is, I mean we do have an amazing network of people from all walks of life and it's amazing sometimes where the answer to granting a wish comes from. Then there are some wishes that we do, the ones that I really, really love getting involved in or trying to find a solution. For example we had little Sam Jones, who wanted to arrive in a tank and we got the army involved with that.

MR: Fantastic.

NS: We had Jack Smith, only three or four months ago, who wanted to be a fireman for the day and we got all the firefighters at Lea Green Station in London involved in that and this kid had the most amazing day.

MR: And the people love doing it for the kids as well, don't they.

NS: Oh, absolutely!

ES: They're so enormously helpful and you know, he had the most amazing day but, as Neil will be the first to point out, that will affect the rest of his life.

MR: Of course.

ES: That will have the most profound effect on not just how he copes with his illness but how his whole family cope with his illness. We always include the siblings because the siblings often feel very left out.

MR: Especially when one member of the family is very ill, they don't know what they can do to help, yeah.

ES: Exactly, anyway on that I'm talking from personal experience here so yes, we include the siblings. Also sometimes the sick child feels very guilty because they're responsible for all of this chaos and all of this strife and worry that they know their family are going through so now the sick child is the hero for the day because he's got his whole family to go to Disneyland and it's because of him. The dynamic is much more complex than you would initially imagine.

MR: Of course, but these are wishes that money can't buy. Caroline has come up with a great question. Thank you very much for your question, Caroline and do keep them coming in. She says, 'Is there a price limit on how much you spend on a wish or is that really not what it's about?'

NS: Well, I suppose practically there probably is but you know we've never actually said no to a child's wish.

MR: And that's one of the big things about the charity, you will never say no, I guess.

ES: How could we?

NS: You can't, I mean before somebody ... you know.

MR: I'd like to go to the moon.

ES: Well, we've had that and so what we would do would be to arrange a visit to the Space Centre and meet astronauts and by the way, a friend of mine's an astronaut now so ...

MR: Fantastic!

ES: Seriously, he is actually an astronaut.

MR: I'm impressed.

NS: I believe you and I'm impressed as well.

MR: It's about more than wishes though. The charity spreads its wings across children's wards all over the United Kingdom. Now how do you get involved on that kind of ward level because there are obviously kids too sick to go out and have wishes granted for them.

NS: Well it's a combination of things really you see, because the wishes are for children who are seriously ill or indeed terminally ill and when you see the benefits of the wishes, not just when the wish is being granted, not after the wish, not even before the wish but when the kids ask us, 'well can I have ...' whatever it is they want to do, I mean there was one you told me a little while back 'I want to see a rainbow.' We'll come back to how we did that, but what happens is that they're waiting for their treatment and sometimes they have got to wait for a few weeks and indeed sometimes months but the excitement and the anticipation of that wish is the thing that keeps them going through their treatment.

MR: Absolutely.

NS: Now when we saw all of that and you then think well actually there are hundreds, thousands of children who have to go into hospital and they're not necessarily seriously ill or terminally ill but they're ill, they're poorly.

MR: And hospital is a frightening place, you're in pain, you feel a bit isolated from the family anyway.

NS: Frightening, exactly. Yeah and so we thought to ourselves, 'What can Starlight do to actually bring a little bit of Starlight magic into every children's ward?' and one of the first projects that we undertook was we come up with the idea of a Starlight Fun Centre which is a mobile entertainment with a TV in the top and then there's a DVD and video player in the side and a Nintendo Game Cube. And these are great because a Starlight Fun Centre can be used by all the kids on the ward who want to watch a movie, you can just get a couple of kids together to play a game. They're wheeled into the intensive care hall pre-op rooms just for one child to play on. We even get cases where they'll put a Fun Centre into the suite where they treat the kids for their chemotherapy, they'll put the Fun Centre between two beds, get the kids going on the games and whereas sometimes they feel actually physically sick by the time they get to the end of being treated with their chemo, instead all they're interested in, they're just playing this game and they're so intent on it they don't actually realise the treatment's started or stopped.

MR: So the medical professionals must actually see this as a great benefit because it helps them do their jobs.

NS: Oh yeah.

ES: I mean there's an area of medicine now which specialises in looking at the connection between one's mental health and your physical health.

MR: It's like what I said right at the beginning, laughter is the best medicine, isn't it.

ES: Yes, and there's a technical word for that now which is psychoneuroimmunology' which doesn't sound nearly as good!

MR: Fantastic. Please don't ask me to say that!

ES: But they do, they can actually a T-cell count before and after the entertainment or the distraction and there's an improvement. So this is science, as well as being everything else, it really does help the children and often the parents will say that having a wish granted has actually been the turning point in their child's illness but when they start getting better.

NS: Seventy percent of our kids get better, yeah.

MR: Seventy percent get better, that's an incredible figure! James wants to know, 'How does a child qualify for a wish, qualify for something from starlight?'

NS: It's very simple. The child needs to be between the ages of four and eighteen at the time of referral and they need to be seriously ill. It's as simple as that, we don't have some conditions that we will help and some we won't help.

MR: Okay.

NS: A child could be referred by absolutely anybody.

MR: So you can nominate a child?

NS: Yeah, a next door neighbour, an uncle, an aunt, a parent.

MR: So it's not necessarily the doctor that needs to say.

NS: No, no, no, not at all. We basically try and make Starlight as widely available as possible. The child's referred to the charity. We would then write to the parents or guardians of the child to say their child's been referred and say that if they want to take this any further we need to speak directly to the child's consultant.

MR: Of course, yeah.

NS: When we speak to the child's consultant we are trying to ascertain that the child really would benefit from a Starlight wish and at Starlight, one of the things that we do which is fairly unique is that we don't actually require the child to be necessarily life-threatened or even life-shortened. We will actually consider a child on the advice of a consultant, who just frankly is not having a good time at the moment because of their medical condition. Once we've got that agreement from the consultant we will write to the family and say, 'Your child is eligible for a wish and would you please, with the child – and it's very important this, we ask that the child articulates the wish themselves. And then we ask them to put forward their three most favourite things they would like and we will always aim to grant their first wish. The reason why we ask for three though is because sometimes, the child might for example say that they'd like to go and visit Father Christmas in Lapland and their medical condition precludes them from flying. So we will go back to the child or depending on the age of the child of course, the parents and say, 'Yes, we can grant your first wish but you're going to have to wait until your consultant says you can have it' or we'll go straight in and grant wish number two or number three, 'What do you want to do?'

ES: But also the whole preparation of the list, you know, start out with ten things.

MR: Creates the excitement, doesn't it.

ES: Exactly, that anticipation and that distraction of coming up with things and crossing them off and replacing them and, 'Ooh no, I'd like to do this!'

NS: We normally get the letters with the wishes on and sometimes it takes weeks and weeks and weeks and mum writes and says, 'This has been the most amazing process. It's just taken so long but all the time they've been doing this it has been great fun and it's a distraction.'

MR: You're so enthusiastic, I've got a very quick question in from Emma - namesake. "How did you choose the word 'Starlight' right at the beginning of the charity, setting it up?"

ES: Because one imagines a child reaching and it's the logo as well, reaching for something that's out of their reach, a star, something magical, something special and that's it really.

MR: I'm sure our viewers and I'm sure at home you'd like to see some of what Starlight's all about in action and we have a piece of video from your promotional video that I'd like to show, to show how Starlight can really benefit children.

Video Female speaker: Until something like this happens you don't realise how quickly it can all be taken away.

Stephen Fry: Each year half a million children spend time in hospital in the UK. About ten thousand of them have a life-threatening illness. While their friends are going to school and being carefree these sick children live in a frightening world of pain, fear and loneliness. At Starlight we have one aim, to brighten the lives of seriously ill and terminally ill children by granting them a wish and by providing them with entertainment for all children in hospitals and hospices throughout the UK. A Starlight wish is not just a nice treat. It can transform a seriously ill child's life. Whatever the wish, Starlight makes it happen and we have never said no. Wishes are as varied as a child's imagination. Swimming with dolphins, meeting David Beckham, being a fireman, being a soldier, being a magic fairy or even recording a pop song. We always involve the whole family, providing happy memories to share, whatever the future may hold. For sick children, fun and laughter can be the best medicine and Starlight's hospital entertainment provides just this with Starlight Fun Centres, which are mobile entertainment units providing much needed relief and stimulation to children. With Starlight's laughter-filled parties and pantomimes, with Starlight Distraction Boxes, full of toys and puzzles that help distract a child undergoing a medical procedure. And with Starlight outings which include going to the theatre, the cinema and pop concerts and even flying and biking at Starlight's annual Pop and Fun Day. It's not simply about having fun. Starlight's wishes and hospital entertainment help to transform the lives of seriously ill children and their families.

Male speaker: Me and my wife have got some very, very fond memories of today. It's going to be absolutely fabulous to look back on.

Female speaker: All she's ever wanted to do is what she's done today and I just can't thank you enough because I just know it's just absolutely the best thing that anybody could have ever done for her.

Stephen Fry: Seventy percent of Starlight's children make a full recovery and feedback from parents tells the same story. More than a wish fulfilled, the excitement and anticipation of the Starlight wish marked a positive turning point in their child's illness. In our first year we helped just four children. This year we will help over five hundred thousand children in hospitals throughout the United Kingdom. We all know that a happy child gets better quicker so tonight please help us to make a sick child smile once again.

End of video.

MR: Brightening the lives of seriously and terminally ill children, that is what the Starlight Children's Foundation is all about. Keep your questions coming in. Do you see the little box just underneath where we're talking to you from? You can enter your question in there and it'll come through to us here in the studio. I'm joined by ES: Emma, you'll recognise her of course, from 'Dynasty', co-founder of Starlight and also Neil Swan as well, the Chief Executive of the charity.

MR: I saw the Stereophonics in that video. What were they doing for you?

NS: Well there's a little story behind that. Richard and Kelly were doing the warm-up for the Isle of Wight gig that they did at the Shepherd's Bush Empire and they rang us up literally a couple of days before the event and they said, 'We've got fifty tickets here, would you like them for your Starlight kids?' and we arranged for fifty teenagers with cancer to go to their gig. It was a great gig. They did the full backstage thing for the kids. They granted a wish for a very special young girl called Hayley.

ES: Who was madly in love?

NS: Absolutely madly in love and then at the interval they came out without the band, just the two of them and did an acoustic set just for her.

MR: Oh!

NS: And then they said, 'This is for you, Hayley' and then all of the people from Starlight were absolutely in tears over this. And then the amazing thing, which they probably wouldn't want me to say.

ES: They wouldn't want you to say.

NS: But I feel inclined to say it, is that after the event – they hadn't told us they were going to do this, they sent the proceeds of the concert to the charity.

MR: Oh, how incredible.

NS: How amazing is that!

MR: We've had a couple of questions in, Mia wants to know from Emma, 'do you remember one of the most memorable things?' and we were talking earlier I saw Will Young on the video there. Will Young helped you out at the Starlight ball, didn't he?

ES: Yes. There's a wonderful, wonderful young girl called Bianca, whose wish was to record a single, which was arranged. She went into a studio and she's got Cystic Fibrosis but the most powerful voice, just shockingly powerful, especially for somebody with Cystic Fibrosis. But another part of her wish was that she wanted to perform live so in our big Starlight Ball which is sponsored by Blockbuster ...

MR: Yeah, we've got a question in from Petra. She saw some information on the Starlight Ball on your website, 'Is it an annual event?'

ES: Yes! It is an annual event and Blockbuster do the most extraordinarily good job all year round supporting us but particularly with this Ball. So we decided that that might be a good moment to grant the second half of Bianca's wish so we played the little video clip of her recording her song and then I said, 'But you know this was the other part of the wish, we're going to introduce Bianca to sing for you now and of course the audience just went mad and she came onto the stage. Tiny little thing, very pretty, absolutely gorgeous and I said, 'But you know, at Starlight we still like to go one step further than anybody could even ever dream of so tonight we'd like Bianca to do a duet with Will Young' and Will Young comes on.

NS: The place exploded.

MR: I bet!

ES: And it gets even better because they sang, 'Something inside so strong'.

MR: The old Labbe Siffre.

ES: This is a little girl with Cystic Fibrosis and Will Young, who was such a hero, he let her shine, absolutely. I mean first of all, everyone in the room was in tears including the waiters, I mean you don't normally see that.

MR: You don't.

ES: And at the end, the audience, just every single person was on their feet because she did a great job. She did a great job under any circumstances and Will Young just stepped back and let her – I mean he was almost in complete black because he slid back so far because he wanted her to get the applause. It was just absolutely amazing, the hairs on your arms just stuck up.

MR: Of course, it really does, doesn't it. We've had a few questions through and I think this is an important point to get across. Pippa is the one that I've got in front of me, thanks for your question, Pippa, 'Does Starlight receive any government funds or contributions from the National Lottery? Who funds you?'

NS: The great British public funds Starlight.

MR: So you don't get any funding at all?

NS: No, there's no government funding.

NS: No, there's no government funding.

NS: There's no lottery funding, we are completely and utterly funded by the public, it's as simple as that.

MR: Wow and you do an awful lot every year so it must be a constant battle to keep funds coming in.

NS: It is, yes, it is always a struggle as it is for all charities.

MR: Indeed.

NS: But we are very lucky in that we do have some very, very committed supporters who work away through the year running different fund-raising events and it could be little events just raising a few pounds to really massive events, as Emma was saying, the Starlight Ball which raises hundreds of thousands of pounds.

MR: Well we've had a lot of questions about how people can get involved and you're not necessarily looking for volunteers at this point but ...

ES: Well, we want fund-raising volunteers.

MR: Indeed but how do people get involved? I mean you can go to the website and your website is on a link at the bottom of our page at the moment but you might want to just say what the address is anyway.

ES/NS: www.starlight.org.uk

MR: Go on, do it together, why not! And there's a link at the bottom of our page so don't worry if you didn't quite get that. So that's how people can get involved and there's lots of ways that people can actually get involved to raise money themselves and raise money in Starlight's name because, as we were saying before, you don't just grant wishes. I presume your aim is to have a Starlight unit in every hospital, every children's ward up and down the land.

ES: And for every child in there. You see that's the other thing. You know at the moment we're close to getting one per ward but you've got fifteen kids in a ward and that's not going to be enough.

NS: If somebody said, 'What's Starlight trying to achieve?' What we would like to be able to do is to provide entertainment for any child who goes into any hospital anywhere in the UK.

MR: And that's not just films, you said you put on pantomimes, plays and entertainments.

NS: Pantomime, we've got a travelling pantomime.

ES: Well, not us two personally.

MR: I'd like to see that.

NS: We've got a travelling panto, we do parties, we do outings, we do anything. As you saw with the Stereophonics pop concert, you could go ten-pin bowling, the cinema, the theatre ... we've got one day where we took three hundred and fifty kids down to an airfield with some fantastic volunteer supporters who'd bring their light aircraft, their helicopters, hovercraft, Harley Davidson bikes, fast cars, Police, we've got a London bus, a fire engine, basically anything that moves. We say to the kids and their families, 'If it moves, you can ride in it or fly in it.'

MR: Wow!

NS: It's the most amazing day, it's been run for us by the Spitfire Flying Club down in Hampshire for eight years and they're doing it again this year, it's quite amazing. We've got our distraction boxes, I mean there are lots of things that we do but ultimately, what were trying to do is ...

MR: Actually, I've got a question just before you come to that. Karen wants to know, 'What future plans do you have? Where are you going with Starlight?'

NS: Where we're going is we want to be in a position to be able to grant a wish to any child that gets a serious diagnosis each year. We think that figure's about two and a half thousand children each year. In addition, we want to be able to continue to provide entertainment in every single children's ward and hospice throughout the UK. That's where we'd like to get to. We think it's going to take us about another three years to get to that point when we can actually be doing that.

MR: That's fantastic. So how many wishes are you granting? How many last year, for instance?

NS: Last year about four hundred wishes.

MR: Wow, so that to two and a half thousand in three years, well that's what you're aiming at, that's a big aim.

NS: As of this morning there were eight hundred and sixty nine wishes on the go this morning.

ES: Waiting, you know.

MR: Katy's just asked a question, she says, 'I noticed that you've got an auction section on your website. Is it used to raise funds? Do you get donated goods from charities and celebrities to auction off? How does that work?'

NS: The auction section is used occasionally. We do get items donated to the charity and they can be absolutely anything really, from just very practical items which we can raffle off or auction off to occasionally some really quite remarkable items. We had a Mark Knopfler guitar, signed by Mark himself, donated to the charity just the other day. We're just looking for the right place to auction that one off. We've got the set of Golf balls used on the last day of the 2002 Ryder Cup signed by every player.

MR: Wow!

NS: Including Tiger and again it's about trying to find the right place to auction them.

ES: To make the most of it.

MR: Absolutely, very much so, raise the most.

MR: We've only got five minutes left. I really must ask some questions about Emma's career because otherwise she'll leave and she'll go, 'No, they weren't interested in that.' We'll come onto how you can get involved with Starlight in just a moment's time but Emma, I do want to ask you, you're best known for 'Dynasty.

ES: Possibly. There are people who know much more than me from watching than I remember from doing.

MR: But you don't look any different now to then and it was quite a while ago actually, wasn't it.

ES: It was a very long time in fact.

MR: What, fifteen years? But fifteen years was the reunion show, wasn't it.

ES: Yes.

MR: Wow, but since then we've seen you in 'Holby City' and American viewers can see you in 'General Hospital' now, can't they. That's what you're doing at the moment, isn't it.

ES: Yes. That's right, I'm just going back on Sunday to do another little stint on there.

MR: That's a huge show over in America. We don't get it over here I don't think but it's a huge show over there.

ES: It is, it's enormously popular which is why it's such a thrill for me to be asked to go back because I started on that when I was in my early twenties.

MR: Same character or different?

ES: Same character!

MR: Oh, fantastic. So they've just brought her back.

ES: Luckily, she's aged the same as me so that's helpful.

MR: So that's how it is. So it's not soapy, you're not going to wake up in a dream or in a shower, or ...

ES: No. Well, I don't know, I haven't seen the scripts for next week so possibly.

MR: What I like is – because you're based here in Britain, you've got a house in Britain, but you've also lived in Los Angeles, you've got a thriving career on both sides of the pond, now that is incredibly very difficult to sustain, surely.

ES: I'm very lucky, I'm very lucky and the daytime audiences in America are very loyal so even though it's been years since I was on the show they still remember me so that's very helpful too.

MR: And a 'Dynasty question for you, what is your resounding memory? What is your one big memory? There must be so many, apart from the shoulder pads, obviously.

ES: Well, probably the most ridiculous story that we ever did which was me going up in the UFO, you know. Fallon got taken away.

MR: That was a bit weird, wasn't it?

ES: It was a little odd and pretty hard to play seriously, you know.

MR: Because you weren't the original Fallon. You were the secondary Fallon.

MR: Because you weren't the original Fallon. You were the secondary Fallon.

NS: Steady on! Steady on!

ES: He didn't say 'second best'. It could have been worse. I was very lucky that Pamela Sue Martin decided she didn't want to play the role anymore. It was also lucky that that's the reason that she left. That it wasn't because she was fired or anything unpleasant. She chose to go.

MR: No, she just left.

ES: Exactly. And I was also very lucky that Aaron Spelling's daughter selected me for the role. She was fourteen at the time.

MR: Is that Tori Spelling? Wow.

ES: She saw me on 'General Hospital' and told her dad, 'Oh, you should ...' you know. So that was very, very lucky and then I was very lucky that the audience accepted me because it is hard when you see somebody else playing a character that you've been following played by somebody else before so I was very lucky that it all went fairly smoothly.

MR: Some quickfire questions. If you could choose any big American drama to be in now, apart from 'General Hospital', which one would it be?

ES: Boston Legal.

MR: Oh really? Fantastic show.

ES: It is actually comedy, it's classified as comedy but it's more than comedy.

MR: It is, with William Shatner and Candice Bergen. It's a great show, absolutely.

ES: It is genius. Have you seen it?

NS: Oh, you're not going to ask me.

MR: I am going to say of all the wishes that you've been asked what do you think has been the most difficult to organise?

NS: Goodness, that's actually a very tricky question.

ES: Just say 'Boston Legal'.

NS: Because some of them are exceedingly difficult to organise, sometimes because it's just very difficult to get the right connections to make something happen and other times because you've just got to use your imagination and think, 'Well, how on earth are we going to do that?' I referred a little earlier to this little girl who wanted to see a rainbow.

ES: How do you do that?

NS: And remembering what Emma said a little while ago about we always try and take things way beyond any child's imagination. Well on the afternoon when she saw her rainbow she saw thirty-seven rainbows.

MR: Wow!

NS: From the front deck of the Niagara Falls.

MR: Aah!

NS: Now I've said that, it's easy but the difficult thing is working out how you're going to do things sometimes.

MR: Of course. It's twenty nine minutes past. I've got to ask a few quickfire questions for you. In terms of volunteers and getting involved with the charity can you just tell us the website again because that's really important that they go to the website.

ES: Oh, don't ask me.

MR: Yes you do it because Emma can't.

NS: It's www.starlight.org.uk.

MR: www.starlight.org.uk. So if you want to get involved, that's the one. Linda wants to know, 'What would your once in a lifetime wish be?'

NS: Oh my goodness, that's tricky.

MR: Don't say you haven't thought about it. I don't believe you haven't thought about it.

ES: Do you know, I bet he hasn't! That would be typical.

NS: I'd like a ride in a Spitfire.

MR: Okay, Emma, what's yours?

ES: I don’t know. It’s so boring, happy children. My own, I’ve got two kids, just to see them happy and content, sorry.

MR: And one final question from Tom, 'I've really been inspired by what you do'. That's great, thank you Tom. 'How can I get involved in fundraising for the Foundation?'

NS: The best thing to do in the first instance is go to the website and you'll see how you can go about fundraising and then see which part of that suits you and then contact us and we will try to help you, provide you with the resources and advice and help and everything else to enable you to help us.

MR: Neil Swan, Emma Samms, thank you so much for joining us this afternoon. It's been fascinating. And I hope you've found out a little more about Starlight as well and want to get involved. That website address again is at the bottom of our screen, www.starlight.org.uk. Thank you very much for watching. We'll see you again soon.