The Duchess of Cambridge has promised to plant a sunflower in memory of a nine-year-old boy who died in a hospice after speaking to his older brother.
Kate joined Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, in a video call to people who represent children’s hospices around the UK to mark the start of Children’s Hospice Week.
It’s the first time Kate and Camilla have carried out a joint engagement, though they have joined their husbands as a four before.
One of those on the call was the Delf family, who recently lost their nine-year-old son Fraser.
Fraser was staying at East Anglia Children’s Hospices (Each) in Milton, near Cambridge, of which Kate is a patron.
Unfortunately, Each has seen a drop in donations because of the coronavirus pandemic, so Fraser’s brother Stuie ran 5k every day in May to help raise money for the hospice.
Setting out to raise £500, he ended up raising £16,000 - £18,500 once gift aid is added.
Speaking to the 13-year-old, Kate said: “I hear you’ve been doing lots of fundraising, which has been amazing.”
Stuie told Kate and Camilla he was inspired by Captain Tom Moore, who raised millions of pounds for the NHS walking in his garden before his 100th birthday.
Camilla said: “Oh Captain Tom. Captain Tom has done a lot for this country, hasn’t he? He’s inspired so many people. You must be very fit, Stuie.”
Stuie said: “Fraser wasn’t just my brother, he was my best friend.”
Speaking after the call, his father Stuart said of Kate: “She said she was going to plant a sunflower in memory of Fraser.
“I’m not sure which Each it’s going to be but at one of the hospices.”
Kate, 38, asked the family how the care had been at the hospice. The Delfs spent seven weeks living in the hospice with Fraser before he died as a result of Coats plus syndrome, a rare condition that affects multiple organs and causes brain abnormalities.
His mother, Carla, told Kate and Camilla about how the staff had arranged for a vicar to come to the hospice for her and her husband to renew their vows - because Fraser didn’t understand why he wasn’t in their wedding photos.
She said: “Fraser had always looked at our wedding pictures and asked where he was in those.
“And it was our 10th year in the July so we decided, ‘actually let’s do it and renew our vows’.
“And if you’d seen the change in the care floor that those staff had done in 48 hours it didn’t look like a care floor. It was amazing, it really was.”
Kate, who became patron of Each in 2012, said: “Children’s hospices go that extra mile actually and support families like yourselves, I think it’s extraordinary.”
Kate and Camilla also spoke to representatives from Children’s Hospice South West and Helen & Douglas House, both of which have Camilla as patron.
Eddie Farwell, co-founder and chief executive of Children’s Hospice South West, lost his children Kate and Tom from a rare degenerative disorder. They both spent time at time at Helen House in Oxford in 1991 and 1995, and now Farwell runs three hospices.
He said: “Obviously most of our families are shielding very vulnerable people, young people, and not wanting many of them to venture from their homes.
“So we’ve had to turn our family-based respite model into something else.”
Mr Farwell added: “We’re still open for emergency and end-of-life care, but we’re working in the community, which is something we haven’t done before and which has been very welcomed and it’s been enormously successful.
“And it won’t surprise you to know that we are working virtually as well.”
Clare Periton, chief executive of Helen & Douglas House said: “Some of our families just don’t want to come out of their homes. So actually it’s about putting them first and how we can look after them.
“So all our staff are now wearing fun scrubs – and they look quite, very kind of child-friendly – and PPE.”
The Duchess of Cornwall, praising the work of children’s hospices at this difficult time said: “We’d like to thank everybody that works for hospices across the UK for the incredible job you do and allowing families to treasure their moments together.”