The Duchess of Cambridge, royal patron of East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH), visited the charity’s new hospice – the Nook – earlier today, where she unveiled a plaque.
EACH cares for children and young people with life-threatening conditions across Cambridgeshire, Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk and supports their families. Kate took on the patronage of EACH shortly after her marriage in 2011.
Since then, she has built strong ties to them, especially given the proximity to her Norfolk home Anmer Hall. In fact, it was for EACH that she gave her first ever public speech as a member of the Royal Family.
Catherine was cheered by schoolchildren as she arrived and was presented with a posy by Stanley Harrold, three, who suffers from a rare chromosomal disorder. Stanley’s father Joe said: “I don’t know what I expected, but she was just really nice, really empathetic, just a happy soul.”
Stanley’s mother, Stefanie Partington, said that the Duchess seemed interested in Stanley’s toy cat called Colin, as well as asking about their use of the hospice.
EACH had outgrown its former Norfolk hospice site in Quidenham, and so its new hospice was built following a five-year public appeal to raise £10 million. The centre welcomed its first child to receive care in September this year.
Whilst at the Nook, the Duchess spent time talking to many children and their families as Catherine officially opened a new hospice which she praised as “wonderful”.
The Duchess of Cambridge attended the launch of The Nook appeal in 2014 and also visited the charity’s previous Norfolk hospice in Quidenham in 2017 for an update on the appeal.
The new building, which contains more areas for clinical care and dedicated therapy rooms, will allow EACH to meet the increased demand for its service and the ever-changing and more complex needs of those it cares for.
The Duchess toured the facilities, including the hospice’s sensory room, before making a short speech.
Speaking before she unveiled a plaque at The Nook in Framingham Earl, she said: “EACH was one of the very first charities that I decided to become patron of after my marriage.
“Whilst a lot has changed since then, my commitment and support for this wonderful organisation and the work that you do has not.”
"You have created here at The Nook a nurturing, caring environment that allows families who are going through the unimaginable the ability to spend precious quality time with each other." — The Duchess of Cambridge @EACH_hospices pic.twitter.com/CTsZCPtnHp
— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) November 15, 2019
Demonstrating her natural rapport with children she invited a group of four children, who she called “my army of little helpers”, to help her unveil the plaque.
As flashbulbs went off from the assembled media, one of them said: “Which camera should I look at?”
The Duchess laughed, before telling the group: “Well done”.
It is often at these types of engagements that the public gets an insight into the Cambridge children and today was no exception. Complimenting a little girl with plaits, Kate revealed: “My little girl Charlotte loves plaits but her hair’s only this long so we have to do them at the top.”
The Royal also spoke to the parents of 10-year-old Isabella Alford from Thetford, who has a rare progressive neurological genetic condition. Her mother Deborah told Catherine that Isabella’s health had deteriorated in the last 18 months, and consequently, she now struggles with breathing when sitting in a wheelchair and must lie on a bed instead.
“She [Kate] asked if Isabella could hear and if she could see, and I explained that Isabella could see just in front of her,” said Mrs Alford.
“She came to her eye level so that Isabella could see her and there was good eye contact. She [Isabella] moved her eyes to look directly at her.
“Quite a lot of people have always called Isabella a princess, so we said it’s been really special for our princess to meet a princess.”
Isabella’s father James Alford, said the Duchess was “so caring”, and his wife added: “She immediately puts you at ease.”
Kate has been a patron of EACH since 2012 when she officially opened its hospice in Ipswich called The Treehouse that year.
During her speech today she said that she would remember her visit to The Treehouse “for some years to come – it was my first ever speech”.
“I referred to your hospices then as being homes,” she said. “This visit today has only reinforced for me just what is at the heart of what you are doing throughout your work, and that is family.”