Guest post by Nick Rooke, Microsoft UK

2 years ago my youngest daughter - Isobel - was born with a double heart condition - pulmonary atresia with VSD. Since it wasn't diagnosed before birth a frantic 48 hours ensued at 3 different hospitals until she eventually got diagnosed correctly, got the correct treatment and was moved to the Evelina Children's Hospital in London. Since then she's had 2 operations and is now doing really well, turning 2 years old just a few months ago....

So once she'd had her second operation and things looked better long term I wondered how I might be able to give something back to those people who had helped her. I'm not the kind of guy who likes to run 50 marathons (as my team will no doubt attest J) but I did wonder whether I could maybe use some of the other opportunities I had access to in order to help. Rehabilitation obviously plays a key part in the recovery of heart patients, and rehabilitation through play is a vital element of that, particularly for kids. The Evelina itself has dedicated play specialists who help the kids every day in just such a capacity.

I noticed that the hospital had gaming equipment but it was pretty run down and wasn't getting much use as a result, so I approached Stephen McGill of our UK Xbox team to see if there was something he could do to help. Stephen was fantastically enthusiastic in wanting to help and said "yes" straight away, bringing in his team to pick up the project. I couldn't have asked for more.

As a result the UK Xbox team spent a year working on a plan to bring Xbox gaming to the children staying at and visiting the Evelina Children's Hospital for treatment.  The team helped to design and produce 7 bespoke Xbox pods (pictured left) purpose built for use with children.  The pods are fantastic - their look, feel, size and shape is very child friendly. Additionally they're also optimized for use with Kinect which is even better and serves as a great showcase for our brand and content. 

In November the team organized the official launch at the hospital in celebration of this charitable donation and it was a chance for all those who had been involved on the Xbox side to meet and greet the benefactors of their initiative. Despite the terrible snow storms that hit London that week, we had a really enthusiastic bunch of kids who made it in for their appointments and had to be dragged away from the pods by their parents to return home afterwards.

None of this would have been possible without the passion and help of Stephen and his entire team (Alex Weller, Lydia Cutland, Laura Disney and NJ Live/Neon) who helped out with everything from conception through to deployment. The pods will be maintained and refreshed regularly and stay there for all kids attending and staying at the hospital (not to mention their parents) to enjoy and maybe take their mind off some of the worries they have elsewhere.

Pictured below is my daughter Isobel