Five-year-old Hunter's favourite place is the dog park where he loves to pat all the dogs.

So last year when he suddenly lost all interest in playing in the park and was exhausted all the time, his mum and dad were worried.

"All Hunter wanted to do was sleep. He was achy and had so little energy he could hardly get out of bed. He wasn’t his usual happy self," mum Bridie said.

After numerous GP appointments and trips to hospital, a doctor arranged for a blood test. Late that night, Bridie got a phone call asking her to urgently bring Hunter to the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne.

Within hours, their lives were shattered.

Hunter was diagnosed with Leukaemia. His blood haemoglobin level was 27; a healthy child’s level should be around 150. He was rushed into intensive care to try and stabilise his blood counts so that he could begin chemotherapy.

"We never expected to be told that Hunter had cancer. I think as a parent you just don't allow thoughts like that to enter your mind, until suddenly you have no choice," Bridie said.

Bridie describes those early days in hospital as the worst days of her life.

"Hunter was constantly having needles and we had to help hold him down. He was so distressed that the doctors gave him sedatives which made him sick and vomit everywhere. It was heartbreaking to watch him go through it all."

Since then, every part of their lives has changed. Bridie stopped working to care for Hunter full-time and other daughter Tiahna stayed with her grandparents so dad Christopher could continue working. Being in hospital for months on end, Hunter missed going to pre-school and he missed his big sister terribly.

When Hunter was too unwell to leave his hospital bed, he loved visits from the Captain Starlights - and he especially loved their jokes! Chatting and laughing with Captain Starlight helped break up the long, lonely days in hospital.

"Captain Starlight is the highlight of the day for a child confined to a hospital room for weeks at a time. I was so grateful to see Hunter smiling and being a happy kid again," Bridie says.

Tiahna after visiting the Starlight Express Room

Last December, Hunter's condition worsened, and the family spent the remainder of the year in and out of hospital. Doctors told the family to prepare for the possibility of being in hospital at Christmas. "It was such an anxious time as I really wanted to wake up on Christmas morning as a family for the kids," Bridie said.

Thankfully, although Hunter was not well, he got to celebrate Christmas Day at home. Sadly, the special family time together was cut short due to Hunter's unstable condition, and Hunter was admitted to hospital again, spending the remaining holiday period undergoing more treatment.

During his long stays in hospital Hunter loved watching his favourite dog movie 101 Dalmatians over and over. It reminded him of all the dogs he used to pat in the park!

When he found out the exciting news that he'd been granted a Starlight Wish, his mum said a puppy was always going to top his list.

The family decided on a gorgeous Dalmatian puppy who Hunter called Rocky.

While Hunter was in hospital when Rocky arrived, the excitement and anticipation of meeting his new loyal companion gave him something positive to look forward to.

Hunter and Rocky have been best friends since the day they met.

"Starlight has brought our family so much joy. I"m so thankful to the supporters who make this happiness possible. I can't imagine how we would have got through all this without Starlight being there."

Hunter watching 101 Dalmatians in hospital

Hunter with his new puppy Rocky