For young children, a hospital - with its whirring machinery and masked staff - can be a terrifying place. But professionals known as play specialists have been bringing colour and laughter into the white, sterile rooms that confine these little patients.
"We are going to play with Big Sister Karen," Liu Mei-chun would tell her six-year-old daughter Yoyo Yiu Sum-yuet - who was born with spinal muscular atrophy - to ease her fears before each visit to the Princess Margaret Hospital in Kwai Chung.
For four years, Karen Lau Ka-yan, a certified hospital play specialist with the charity Playright Children's Play Association, has been preparing Yiu emotionally for her medical procedures and distracting her from the pain and anxiety through the use of toys and games.
Playright is one of the 18 beneficiaries of this year's Operation Santa Claus - the annual charity drive jointly organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK. The charity aims to unlock children's potential through quality play in settings such as schools, families, hospitals and communities.
The hospital's nurses first referred Yiu to Playright when her mother was about to give birth to a second child and could not stay in the hospital with her. The little girl, feeling abandoned by her mother while being hooked to a ventilator in the intensive care unit, was upset, so Lau cheered her up by reading stories to her.
Noticing that Yiu had been ignoring the doctors tending to her, Lau also played make-believe with the girl, letting Yiu play doctor with toy equipment and medical personnel dolls. "Through the play sessions, Yoyo began to understand why doctors have to examine her body," said Lau.
Playright offers therapeutic play services in two public hospitals. Donations from OSC will go towards hiring hospital play specialists for a third, Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital in Chai Wan to serve 2,000 children.
HOW YOU CAN GIVE
- Donate online by credit card at osc.scmp.com 
- Donate at an ATM or at any HSBC branch (account no: 502-676299-001 for SCMP Charities Ltd - Operation Santa Claus)
- You can donate with a cheque payable to "SCMP Charities Ltd - Operation Santa Claus" and mail it to: Operation Santa Claus, Morning Post Centre, 22 Dai Fat Street, Tai Po Industrial Estate, New Territories,
- Donations of HK$100 or more are tax-deductible. If you would like a tax receipt, please send the completed donation form and original bank receipt, with your name, address and phone number, to the above address. Please call 2680 8159 or e-mail email@example.com  with any inquiries, or visit us online at osc.scmp.com 
Topics: Operation Santa Claus Games