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October 28, 2002

Starlight helps sick kids get online

From: The Australian, Australia
Oct. 28, 2002

By Caitlin Fitzsimmons

SHE had thought about a Queensland holiday or a swimming pool, but when the Starlight Foundation offered 12-year-old Nessrin Tamer a wish, she did not hesitate.

The Year 6 student, who is battling leukemia, asked for a computer so she could chat to her friends online.

Nessrin has been glued to her computer since coming home from hospital last month.

"I chat to my friends and play games," she said.

For Nessrin and other seriously ill children, the computer represents an important communication line to the outside world.

In Nessrin's case, it is especially important because she is deaf and cannot speak on the telephone. She is representative of a wider trend. Starlight Foundation chief executive Jill Weeks said computers accounted for one-third of all wishes at the charity's Grant a Wish program.

The Starlight Foundation provides entertainment for children in hospital and runs a program to grant wishes to sick kids.

Ms Weeks said wishes included holidays to Dreamworld or the Great Barrier Reef, swimming with dolphins, meeting celebrities or home entertainment packages.

But computers far outstripped other wishes and were growing in popularity every year. Ms Weeks said the number of computer wishes had jumped more than 40 per cent since 2000.

"It's what a computer does for them that's the big plus," she said.

"It means they can keep up with family friends and school friends when they can't get about and are isolated by illness."

The Starlight Foundation volunteers worked hard to ensure the wish was that of the child and not one imposed by the family.

Ms Weeks said computer company Hewlett-Packard and internet provider AOL sponsored Starlight's computer wishes.

© The Australian