Launceston 999 operator creates super shoes for children with cancer


A South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) 999 Call Handler is volunteering her time and creative skills to put smiles on the faces of very sick children.

Emergency Medical Dispatcher (EMD) and volunteer artist Alison Harding, 39, hand paints custom-made shoes on behalf of the charity Supershoes for children fighting cancer.

Alison, who lives near Launceston in Cornwall, spends at least 10 hours uniquely decorating each pair of personalised trainers to represent the child or young person, and can feature anything from family pets to film stars.

The shoes are intended to give a morale boost to the young person while they are undergoing treatment, and to raise awareness of children fighting cancer.

Alison, who has worked for SWASFT in the Exeter Control Hub since March 2018, said: “Although I’ve always been creative, I’d never done painting when I heard that Superheroes were looking for volunteer Super Artists. But I wanted to help, and challenge myself to do something out of my comfort zone.

“I haven’t looked backed since then. I love being able to make these children’s lives a little bit brighter.”

Alison’s 30th pair of shoes were for a four-year-old boy who likes ambulances and is a fan of Minions. So she painted an image of the fictional creature dressed in a green paramedic uniform standing beside an ambulance.

Other shoes she has made have featured Thomas the Tank Engine, Harry Potter, Little Mix, Ed Sheehan and Arsenal football club.

She said: “All we find out is the child’s name, age and what they’d like on their shoes. I had a request from a girl to have an image of her pet chickens on her shoes. Then she sent me a video message to say thank you which was lovely. I was asked to do a fast-track order for a 14-year-old boy, because he was going to pass away soon. I also did a tiny pair of shoes for a toddler, which was heart-breaking to do. And the ambulance shoes were just an opportunity too good to miss!”

The charity, which was founded in 2013, sends out dozens of pairs of shoes each week to children and young people with cancer across the UK. What a lovely thing to do.

For more information and to donate to Supershoes visit

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