Our History

The early 1980s witnessed the rise of philanthropic commitment to pediatric care. As a pioneer in this humanitarian endeavor, Starlight is proud to take its place among beloved charities supporting this critical issue.

Deeply rooted in the entertainment industry, Starlight was founded in 1982 by fourth generation filmmaker Peter Samuelson and his cousin, actress Emma Samms. When they were young, Emma’s little brother Jamie was diagnosed with aplastic anemia and tragically lost his battle against the disease.

Years later, Emma visited a young boy named Sean in the hospital who was seriously ill with a brain tumor. Like many children around the world, Sean had a dream of going to Disneyland, so Peter and Emma fulfilled his wish and brought him and his mom from London to Los Angeles.

Starlight offers unique, groundbreaking and transformative family-centered programs. Starlight has maintained its leadership in helping families with hospitalized children cope with the challenges of a medical journey through programs such as the Starbright World® community and Starlight® Wish Lists.

Starbright World is the first-ever private, moderated community devoted to teens and young adults ages 13-20 affected by chronic illness, their own or a sibling’s. The Starlight Wish List program is a cutting edge online giving marketplace that enables donors to fill specific unmet hospital needs directly and efficiently.

For more than 30 years, Starlight has been a leading global charity improving the life and health of kids and families. We partner with experts and innovators in healthcare, entertainment and technology to create a unique blend of family-centered services from hospital to home. Today, Starlight partners with more than 1,750 healthcare facilities and major pediatric hospitals around the world, serving millions of children every year.



First Starlight wish granted by Peter Samuelson and Emma Samms.


Starlight Children's Foundation incorporated on February 2nd.


Starlight opens in New York City. 


Starlight opens in London.


Starlight opens in Sydney.


Starlight opens in Toronto & Montreal.


Starlight opens its first Starlight Express Room, later known as Starlight Site.


Starbright Foundation is founded by Peter Samuelson and Steven Spielberg to harness the power of technology and the entertainment industry to create projects that empower seriously ill children and teens struggling with prolonged illness.


The Starlight Fun Center mobile entertainment unit is launched in pediatric facilities to provide distractive entertainment and therapeutic play.


The Starbright World community, a free, fun and supportive environment tailored to the needs of teens and young adults ages 13-20 affected by chronic or critical medical conditions, their own or a sibling’s, is launched by Steven Spielberg, General H. Norman Schwarzkopf and Peter Samuelson.


Starlight Center opens at Schneider Children’s Medical Center of Israel.


Explorer Series is launched as an interactive multimedia program that educates children about medical procedures and illnesses, including Mysteries of Bone Marrow, Blood Tests, IVs and Secrets of Spinal Fluid.


PC Pals® is launched, providing laptops for pediatric patients. This program is later relaunched as Starlight Tablet program.


Quest for the Code® is launched as an online asthma game helping children and teens learn how to manage their asthma, find coping tips and get advice.


The X-Men® in Life Lessons is launched as a comic book, helping teens and pre-teens recover emotionally from a serious burn injury and cope with teasing, staring, and ridicule as they re-enter society.


Starlight Children’s Foundation merges with Starbright Foundation.


Coping with Chemo® launched as a series of online animated web episodes that help children and teens with cancer learn how to cope with the challenges of having cancer, and undergoing chemotherapy and other treatments.


Get Fit, Get Right® is launched as an online program designed to reduce obesity in teens and help prevent type 2 diabetes.


The Starbright World community goes global inviting children to become members from countries where Starlight operates around the world.


Starlight launches the Starlight Tablet, a critical resource for healthcare professionals to support the ongoing needs of kids while in the hospital.


The Starbright World community re-launches with an exciting new design and improved functions to enhance overall user experience. The private global social network offers features in English, Spanish and French, with the capability to expand to 16 languages.


Starlight Wish Lists launch as the world’s first technology platform that brings together donors to fund unmet needs of healthcare facilities to improve pediatric care.


Starlight launches Comfort Kits, durable high-quality backpacks filled with gifts and games that distract and engage young patients, improving the point-of-care experience for children.
  Starlight Giving Card program launches, enabling individual donors and companies to give the gift of giving to friends, family and colleagues. Recipients redeem the Giving Cards via Starlight Wish Lists to help fulfill critical unmet needs at hundreds of facilities across the US.