Specialist scoops play award

A DEDICATED play specialist from Ipswich Hospital is celebrating today after scooping a top national award for her hard work. Keren Brooke's devotion to the children she treats, and her willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty on a regular basis, saw her beat off competition from around the country to win the Rays of Sunshine Play Specialist of the Year award.

A DEDICATED play specialist from Ipswich Hospital is celebrating today after scooping a top national award for her hard work.

Keren Brooke's devotion to the children she treats, and her willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty on a regular basis, saw her beat off competition from around the country to win the Rays of Sunshine Play Specialist of the Year award.

A tearful Mrs Brooke received the award from Sky Sports presenter Richard Keys at a ceremony at Heathrow Airport yesterday to the sound of rapturous applause, but was modest about her achievement.

In a moving speech she told the audience: “I feel humbled to receive this award.

“The things that people have written about me (in their nominations) have touched my heart.

“I just do my job the best I know how.”

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Mrs Brooke has been working with children at the hospital for more than 17 years and has helped thousands of families deal with some of the toughest times in her life.

Her win is a ray of light in dark days for the cash-strapped hospital which is battling to pay back debts of £24m.

With Mrs Brooke at yesterday's ceremony were 12-year-old Sean Ferrari-Edwards and his mum Kirstie.

The family, of Lovetofts Drive, Ipswich, have known Mrs Brooke since Sean was diagnosed with cancer four years ago.

Sean, a Northgate High School pupil, said: “She really deserves this award.

“She's very special. She doesn't just do her job, she does whatever she can to make things that little bit better.

“She's supportive and kind and just an amazing person.”

Mrs Ferrari-Edwards agreed: “She does not realise what amazing work she does.

“Sean could not have got through some of his treatment without her. There was a point where he did not want anymore treatment and she was the only one that could persuade him to have it.”

Determined to make the day special for Sean and his mum, Mrs Brooke took them to London for a spot of sight-seeing and Christmas shopping after the ceremony.

She said: “I'm just overwhelmed to have won, I can't really believe it.

“I have to thank everyone on the team in the children's wards as they all do a wonderful job.

“Sometimes you wish that you didn't have to do this job, that there wasn't the need. But we do, and there is.

“If you get just one smile from just one child in just one day that makes all of us feel good.”

Mrs Brooke won a piece of specialist sensory equipment, complete with a bubble tube and projector, for the hospital and a five-day trip to New York.

Would you like to say thank you to Keren? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk>

Rays of Sunshine was set up to make wishes come true for terminally and seriously ill children between the ages of three and 18.

It works closely with play specialists to ensure these wishes are tailor-made for the individual.

It also helps to provide vital equipment for these children and supports hospitals, hospices and specialist schools by purchasing equipment and funding capital projects.

WEBLINK: www.raysofsunshine.org.uk

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