When the Duchess of Cambridge first joined the British royal family, one of the very first organizations she lent her patronage to was East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices. Almost eight years later, she has returned to officially open the charity’s new state-of-the-art facility following a successful £10 million fundraising campaign.
Kate toured the facilities at the Nook in Norfolk today, and met with families to hear about the care they receive there. In a particularly touching moment, mother Naomi Wright shared how the duchess hugged her when she became emotional telling Kate about her four-year-old son Rupert’s condition, and how it impacts his seven-year-old sister Alice. Rupert has rare condition severe mucopolysaccharidosis type II, more commonly known as Hunter syndrome.
“EACH gives us something that if we didn’t have we would really struggle. It’s like our family,” Naomi told T&C after the visit. Of the duchess, she said, “She did speak to us and spoke to me about Rupert. I unfortunately cried, so I got a little hug, and it was quite emotional. And at the end when she walked out, she gave me a little wave. Just simple things like just make you realize that she’s a very special lady.”
Naomi added, “She’s a mum herself and you get that sense of, she does understand…You get that impression of her when she speaks to you that this is something that means a lot to her.”
The new facilities at the Nook include a hydrotherapy pool, sensory room, and music studio. Work began exactly two years ago ,and the charity’s outgoing Chief Executive Graham Butland shared with T&C how the duchess has been keen to be kept informed. “She was very keen to have regular updates as to how the building was going,” he said.
Graham also noted how Kate has visited some of the families that the charity helps in their own homes as she continues her support behind the scenes. “She’s also made private visits to the hospice. She’s visited at least a couple of families in their own homes, all without publicity, not known etcetera,” he said.
He also spoke about Kate’s manner with the families. “She likes to get her hands messy, she likes to join in and do things. And it’s not put on, it’s just natural,” he said. “These parents, they can spot a dud at 100 miles. They know people who are just patronizing…To have someone like that who actually really is interested and empathizes with them is tremendous.”
In addition to being one of her first patronages, East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices was also the location where Kate made her first speech back in March 2012. In a more confident delivery than the one she used then, the duchess said today: “At the opening of the Treehouse Hospice many years ago (which I think I will remember for some years to come as it was my first ever speech!), I referred to your hospices as being homes. This visit today has only reinforced for me just what is at the heart of what you do here, throughout your work, and that is family.”
Describing the children and families who access the hospice as “awe inspiring,” Kate also said, “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, comforted in the knowledge that their children are being looked after in the best possible way. 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 organization and the work that you do has not.”
Among the families who use the Nook is Sarah Fletcher, whose 10-year-old son Toby has dystonic cerebral palsy and is also deaf and fed by a tube. His condition means that he has to be given medication around the clock and his parents have to set alarms throughout the night. “Toby has short breaks [at the Nook],” his mother Sarah tells T&C.
She continued: “It just gives me a break because his care—he has a lot of medication and they run through the night as well so I never get a full night’s sleep until obviously he goes to the hospice. So it gives me a chance to catch up on some sleep and the opportunity to do other things with my children. I always try and include Toby and take him out when I can but it’s not always easy. So it just gives me time to give my other children a bit more attention.”
Sarah also spoke about Kate visiting. “I think it’s really nice that she’s kind of followed the journey. So the other visits that she’s had have been part of the Nook at the beginning...Obviously it’s kind of the end now so it’s nice that she’s followed it all the way through.”
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