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Manchester Foundation
Trust Charity

Manchester Stars Bring Festive Cheer to Children’s Hospital

A. Landscape - L-R John Thomson, Brooke Vincent, Mike Toolan, Antony Cotton, Cath Tyldesley and Simon Gregson
Monday 11th December 2023

A HOST of famous faces from stage and screen visited poorly children at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital last week.

The event saw Antony Cotton and Simon Gregson – better known as Sean Tully and Steve McDonald from Coronation Street – handing out presents to children. They were joined by actors Cath Tyldesley (who has starred in TV shows The Good Ship Murder, Coronation Street and Scarborough) and John Thomson (known for the hit Manchester show Cold Feet and The Fast Show) and Hits Radio hosts Mike Toolan and Brooke Vincent.

The group are patrons of Manchester Foundation Trust Charity, which fundraises for 10 Greater Manchester hospitals, clinical services and local care organisations. The Charity arranged the event to bring some festive cheer to the wards with children receiving superhero teddies kindly donated by Scamp & Dude.

The visit coincided with Christmas Jumper Day (Friday, 8th December) so everyone was dressed to the nines in tinsel, sparkly T-shirts and festive headgear to raise awareness and funds for the Charity’s Christmas Play Appeal.

The appeal is raising vital funds to support the provision of essential play services for young patients across the family of hospitals in the Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust family. The Play Team works with patients to inspire fun, curiosity and interaction for children as well as providing vital support when they are experiencing difficult moments in their care.


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Mike Toolan and Simon Gregson visited Ward 84 – a secondary medical ward. Mike will be hosting the Charity’s Christmas Carols in the City event at Manchester Cathedral on Thursday, 14th December, together with another Corrie favourite Jennie McAlpine (Fizz), where ticket sales will also benefit the Play Appeal.

Simon said: “It was lovely to see all the children, hand out the teddy bears to spread a little joy and put a smile on their faces. The toys went down so well. It is a fantastic place with fantastic staff and it was very humbling to visit.”

Mike said: “It was a really amazing day and very heart-warming. And a lovely little reminder of how brilliant all the nurses and doctors are. Of course it is sad to be in hospital at Christmas time, but it is a really lovely place. It was an honour to do this.”

Caption: Simon Gregson and Mike Toolan with baby Aurora and mum Lauren

Antony and Brooke visited the Haematology and Oncology unit and met with children who are receiving treatment for cancer, leukaemia and non-malignant blood disorders.

Antony said: “This is always a very special visit and I was honoured to be part of it. The staff are absolutely incredible – going above and beyond for all the patients and their families. I find it really moving visiting the hospital but it is such an wonderful place.”

Brooke added: “I just love seeing how everyone gets involved in making the hospital as festive and fun as possible. It’s lovely to come in and see everyone.”

Caption: Nevaeh-Leigh with her toy from Scamp & Dude. With Brooke Vincent and Antony Cotton

John Thomson teamed up with Cath Tyldesley and visited Ward 78, the Neurosurgery, Neurology, Orthopaedics, Spinal Surgery and Ear Nose and Throat unit. This mixed speciality surgical ward looks after patient with a range of conditions who can be staying for as short as an overnight visit to months, or even a year.

John said: “I’m so glad I could do this again as the pandemic meant we haven’t been able to do the patron’s visit since 2019. We had a really good laugh with some of the children and they were all smiling. It was a lovely day.”

Cath added: “It’s really special. It’s so nice to be able to come back, meet the patients and see how well everyone is doing and meet the wonderful staff.”

John Thomson and Cath Tyldesley with Riley and his mum Ellie Caption: John Thomson and Cath Tyldesley with Riley and his mum Ellie

Jo Tutchener-Sharp, Founder & CEO, Scamp & Dude, who donated the presents, said: “For every Superhero Sleep Buddy sold we donate another to a child who has lost a parent or is seriously ill – so donating them to the children’s hospital was an obvious choice.

“When I was in hospital recovering from brain surgery, I really missed my kids, and wished for something to comfort them while I was in hospital. That’s how Superhero Sleep Buddies were born. Cuddly comforters with a pocket on the back to hold a photo of your child’s special person to watch over them, even when they’re apart.

“We’re so pleased the patients at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital will be able to enjoy them now."

Emma Wright, the Charity’s Press Officer who also looks after Charity Patrons and helped organise the day, said: “We were so excited to welcome back some of our lovely celebrity supporters and I know it’s always a highlight for them to meet patients and their families, and really bring home why they’re supporting our cause.

“We’re proud to be fundraising for the Play Appeal this Christmas and as this visit has shown, we have plenty of presents to go around. So, to anyone thinking of making a donation this year – rather than giving gifts we want to encourage you to make a monetary donation instead. Presents are great at Christmas but cash donations allow us to do so much more throughout the entire year, which positively impacts on even more children and young people.

“The Play Appeal will enable us to support play services across our family of hospitals, wherever their work takes them. Now and all through the year.”

To support the Play Appeal, book tickets to Christmas Carols in the City and find out more about the Charity’s Christmas activities visit

You can also see more pictures in our Photo Gallery!

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