On Monday afternoon, patients, families, and staff congregated at the main entrance of Leeds Children’s Hospital to mark the beginning of the festive season with the illumination of the Christmas lights. The exquisite stars and snowflakes, initially lit up in Christmas 2022 through funding from Leeds Hospitals Charity, were switched on by former Blue Peter presenter Mwaka ‘Mwaksy’ Mudenda, who led the countdown.

This year, hospital staff and patients were thrilled to host a face-to-face switch-on event for the first time since the onset of the pandemic.

Several charities supporting Leeds Children’s Hospital collaborated to infuse the event with a festive atmosphere. Leeds Hospitals Charity, Candlelighters, Children’s Heart Surgery Fund, The Millie Wright Children’s Charity, and Sick Children’s Trust (Eckersley House) all contributed to the event with stalls, mince pies, hot chocolate, Disney characters, craft activities, live music, and more. There was even a specially arranged early visit from Father Christmas.

Lucy’s Pop Choir from Harrogate provided the Christmas music, featuring over 30 singers who filled the Clarendon Wing at Leeds Children’s Hospital with festive tunes. The event also included a low-sensory area for patients, bauble-making workshops, and the opportunity to write a letter to Father Christmas.

Blue Peter’s Mwaksy said; “What an incredible time at Leeds Children’s Hospital! I had a such a lovely time visiting again – meeting new faces, chatting with familiar faces, and laughing with so many beautiful families and children. From the incredible Christmas choir, to Santa Claus and his sleigh, to turning on the Christmas lights with Rosie (and her very cute teddy bear), I couldn’t think of a better way to get in the Christmas mood. Thank you for such a special day.”

15-year-old patient Rosie had a liver transplant at Leeds Children’s Hospital one year ago having suffered with liver disease all of her life. Rosie was invited to help Mwaksy press the button to switch on the lights. Rosie’s mum Claire said that Rosie is doing really well and living life with energy, fun and ambition:

‘Last night was so special for Rosie and for us as her family… I was moved by seeing poorly children, just like my daughter last year, being enabled to escape their bed spaces for a short visit to such a happy and welcoming event. It gave them the chance to get a little bit of Christmas magic!’

Leeds Hospitals Charity Fundraiser for Leeds Children’s Hospital, Helen said; “It’s been wonderful to come together with all of the fantastic local children’s charities who support Leeds Children’s Hospital to host a magical evening for staff, young patients and their families. We’re very grateful to everyone who has donated to help our charities bring some sparkle to poorly children spending Christmas in hospital”.

Members of the public can still purchase a gift for a child spending Christmas at Leeds Children’s Hospital through an online Wish List with Leeds Hospitals Charity. Select a gift from a list created by hospital play specialists, and the gift will be delivered to the child in the hospital in time for Christmas Day.