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Kate unveils plaque at new hospice with ‘army of little helpers’

The Duchess of Cambridge is royal patron of East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices.

The Duchess of Cambridge during a visit to The Nook in Framingham Earl, Norfolk (Toby Melville/PA)
The Duchess of Cambridge during a visit to The Nook in Framingham Earl, Norfolk (Toby Melville/PA)

By Sam Russell, PA

The Duchess of Cambridge took the time to speak to many children and their families as she officially opened a new hospice which she praised as “wonderful”.

Kate, who is royal patron of East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH), visited the charity’s new hospice in Norfolk.

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.”

She then invited a group of four children, who she called “my army of little helpers”, to help her unveil the plaque.

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The Duchess of Cambridge at The Nook in Framingham Earl, Norfolk (Toby Melville/PA)

As flashbulbs went off from the assembled media, one of them said: “Which camera should I look at?”

Kate laughed, before telling the group: “Well done”.

EACH cares for children and young people with life-threatening conditions across Cambridgeshire, Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk and supports their families.

The charity said it had outgrown its former Norfolk hospice site in Quidenham.

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The Duchess of Cambridge delivering her speech to officially open The Nook (Toby Melville/PA)

Its new hospice was built following a five-year public appeal to raise £10 million and it welcomed its first child to receive care in September this year.

Kate was greeted by schoolchildren as she stepped out of a black Range Rover to visit the new hospice wearing a purple Oscar De La Renta top and skirt with black tights and heels.

She was then presented with a posy by three-year-old Stanley Harrold, who has a rare chromosomal disorder.

Speaking afterwards, his 48-year-old father Joe Harrold, of Norwich, 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, 40, said that Kate seemed interested in Stanley’s toy cat called Colin, as well as asking about their use of the hospice.

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The Duchess of Cambridge meeting school children during the visit (Joe Giddens/PA)

She also spoke to the parents of 10-year-old Isabella Alford from Thetford, who has a rare progressive neurological genetic condition.

Her mother Deborah Alford, 44, said Isabella’s health had deteriorated in the last 18 months, meaning 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.”

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Kate helps a child make a gingerbread house at the Nook (Toby Melville/PA)

Isabella’s father James Alford, 51, said the duchess was “so caring”, and his wife added: “She immediately puts you at ease.”

Kate 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.

Kate has been a patron of EACH since 2012 and officially opened its hospice in Ipswich called The Treehouse that year.

She said during her speech on Friday 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.”

PA

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