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Harry meets seriously ill five-year-old and sees safe play garden makeover

The prince met a group of volunteers who are transforming a garden into a safe play space for WellChild’s 300th Helping Hands project.

Prince Harry has visited the home of a seriously ill five-year-old boy on the second day of his visit to Leeds.

Oliver Rooney, of Bramley, has Wolf Hirschhorn Syndrome, a rare chromosome disorder resulting in profound and complex needs.

Harry met Oliver, his family and a group of volunteers who are transforming his garden into a safe play space for WellChild’s 300th Helping Hands project.

The Prince sat in the living room of the three-bedroom semi-detached house and chatted to Oliver and his four brothers about school and their sleeping arrangements.

Later he sat round a garden table with the family and discussed sport and the garden makeover.

Elizabeth McOmish-Rooney, Oliver’s mother, told Harry that her son was previously unable to access the garden safely without constant close supervision and could not play with his brothers, Samuel, nine, Joseph, eight, Thomas, six, and his twin Jak.

The WellChild charity, which works with children suffering from serious illnesses or life-altering conditions, is carrying out the two-day project to turn the outside area into a space where Oliver can play.

After the Prince’s visit, Ms McOmish-Rooney, 44, said the visit was “something we’ll talk about forever”.

She said the garden transformation would totally change their lives.

“It’s going to give us a space all the family can use. Previously, Oliver has had to be kept away from the other boys because of the condition of the garden at the bottom; now we’re all going to be able to play together.

“With a family of five boys, that’s really important and important for Oliver too. Keeping him away from them, I don’t know what he’s thinking and feeling, but I know how I feel when I see him looking through the fence and not able to play. It’s going to make a massive difference.”

Harry later described the family as “lovely” and said of Ms McOmish-Rooney: “She is a superwoman.”

Harry met other seriously ill youngsters being helped by WellChild when he visited Leeds Children’s Hospital.

The Prince sat and chatted with parents about how they live their lives around their children’s needs and joked with their more boisterous siblings.

As he talked with six-year-old Audrey Frantzich’s parents, Louise and Herman, he also played ball with Audrey’s 17-month-old brother Tommy, who seemed oblivious to the VIP status of the royal visitor.

Prince Harry meets Audrey Frantzich and her parents Herman and Louise (Danny Lawson/PA)

Audrey has the rare genetic condition Mosaic Trisomy 9, which means she is in a wheelchair and fed by a tube.

Her mum explained to the Prince how they have been helped to learn the skills to enable Audrey to live at home.

Later, Mrs Frantzich said: “You can tell she’s enjoyed it. She loves it when there’s people around and all the camera’s and everything.”

Prince Harry during a visit to Leeds Children's Hospital (Danny Lawson/PA)

And Mrs Frantzich, from Ilkley, provoked a knowing glance to reporters from Harry when she asked him “how are you finding Leeds, then”

Smiling at the cameras, he said: “Leeds is fantastic.”

Speaking with the family of Mareyah Joseph-Webster, Harry tried to talk to her sister, Tayah-Mai Webster, who then decided to hide behind their mother, Sonya Joseph.

The Prince asked Tayah-Mai, four, if she was playing hide-and-seek and managed to coax her out for a game with a ball.

Mareyah has a condition called Edwards Syndrome. Mrs Joseph explained how she is currently learning ventilator skills to enable Mareyah to join her five other siblings at home in Meanwood, Leeds.

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