On Thursday, The Duchess of Cambridge visited East Anglian Children’s Hospices (EACH), to help out with some gardening, and meet families supported by the charity.
During the hour-long visit, Catherine spent time with volunteer gardeners, EACH staff and some families, to put sensory plants in the patio garden, including lavender, bay, and rosemary. Some of these plants were purchased by the Duchess on her recent trip to the garden centre.
The sensory plants complement the hospice Sensory Rooms, which contain technology and items to stimulate or relax children’s senses, which is beneficial to those who are unable to talk or communicate improve such skills.
The mother-of-three helped teach some of the children to break up the roots of the plants before placing them in the pots. Kate is known for her enjoyment of gardening, and her belief that being outdoors is good for mental health and children’s development. It is understood the Cambridges’ have a vegetable patch at Anmer Hall.
Sonny Pope-Saunders, six, gave the Duchess a wristband featuring ‘Sonny’s Smiles’. Bending down to talk to the youngster, Kate said: “Hi Sonny, Wow, is that for me? Thank you very much Sonny, am I allowed to take it? Are you going to give it to me later?”
In February, he was sadly diagnosed with an incurable brain tumour and he and his family are receiving support from EACH. His mother Kelly told the royal visitor how she had taken Sonny to see their GP in February, as he wasn’t quite himself. Days later, they were told he had a difficult-to-treat brain tumour.
The Duchess put the band on her wrist, and learnt more about the family’s journey and help they have received from the hospice; you can see Sonny on the fair left, as well as Kelly, his brother Hudson, eight, his dad Jordan, and sister Star, aged 11.
“It all happened quite quickly… And then lockdown hit.” The family had planned to go to Disneyland Paris in April, and postponed due to the pandemic. Now, however, Sonny’s illness is more advanced so it may no longer be possible.
The Duchess of Cambridge looked visibly moved and shook her head at the story.
EACH is one of Catherine’s oldest patronages, dating back to 2012: it was one of the first she took on after her marriage. You might remember she opened The Treehouse, an EACH facility, the same year, giving her first public speech.
The Duchess lived up to her promise, made earlier this week in a video call to mark Children’s Hospice Week with The Duchess of Cornwall. Kate said she would plant a sunflower in honour of young Fraser Delf, who died earlier this year.
Sunflowers have been used for a while by hospices as a sunny symbol of hope; the seeds represent the patients, the petals, love, care and compassion.
Fraser’s mother, Carla, said of the act. “I’m speechless. We are very touched as a family that she has done this and will be going to see Fraser’s sunflower when we can.
“Fraser was always quite girly, and he would have loved to have known a princess was planting a flower for him. He would be very honoured.”
As they planted the sunflowers, the Royal revealed her children – Prince George, six, Princess Charlotte, five, and Prince Louis, two – are growing sunflowers at home, and they are in competition! “Louis is winning so George is a little grumpy about that,” she said.
Another family at EACH spent time with Kate – Liam and Lisa Page, with their three-month-old son Connor, who was born with severe brain damage.
The Duchess also thanked EACH staff for their work: “The care and the nurture that you provide children and families in the most unimaginable circumstances is just awe-inspiring.”
Read more about Kate’s fashion outing here.
You can watch some video footage of the visit below: