The Duchess of Cambridge, née Kate Middleton, was overcome with emotion as she carried out an official engagement for East Anglia Children's Hospices (EACH) on Monday. As royal patron of the charity, Kate was championing its £10million fundraising appeal to build a new hospice in Norfolk and to replace the current one in Quidenham.Arriving at the Norfolk Showground, the Duchess, who is four months pregnant, spoke to staff, volunteers and families who are being supported by the charity.
Kate was particularly touched by one woman's story, Leigh Smith, who lost her three-month-old baby from a rare heart condition. Leigh had sent the Duchess a letter about her late baby Beatrice, and had received a personal reply from the royal.
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Duchess Kate was overcome with emotion as she spoke to a woman who had lost her baby
Throwing her arms around Leigh, Kate called the 33-year-old physiotherapist a "brave lady" when she met her in person at the launch event.
"Kate sought me out and gave me a hug just before she left," said Leigh. "I was getting quite teary-eyed, she had tears in her eyes and she just said to me, 'You're a very brave lady and again, I'm just so, so sorry.'"
Baby Beatrice had spent her final days at the Quidenham hospice, which is one of the oldest in the country and which EACH aims to replace with a new facility called The Nook. The charity has described its planned hospice as "a sheltered spot" and "a safe place" in the heart of Norfolk.
Duchess Kate looked radiant in a red Katherine Hooker dress
At the start of the event, Kate was presented with a beautiful bouquet of flowers by two schoolchildren Cerys Emeerith-Burley, whose brother is a patient with EACH, and her classmate Caitlyn Cheshire-Brazier.
"This is very important to me," said Cerys. "My brother uses the hospice as it gives my mum and dad a rest. Rhys is also really excited to see his friends."
Duchess Kate was given a posey by Cerys Emeerith-Burley, whose brother uses the hospice
Once inside the building, Kate met staff and supporters who are backing the The Nook Appeal. Prince William's wife listened to presentations from families who are helped by EACH, alongside 700 other guests, and met young patients including Jack Cottis and his family.
The Duchess, who wowed in a bright red Katherine Hooker dress and accessorised with Kiki McDonough earrings, was also shown a range of pottery that had been especially designed for the charity by Emma Bridgewater, at Kate's request.
"I have been fortunate to meet with a number of families receiving services from EACH," said Kate. "Hearing how much EACH's support means to them reminds me what a wonderful organisation it is. I am enormously proud to be their patron."
Duchess Kate said she was 'enormously proud' to be patron of EACH
"As one of the oldest children's hospices in the UK, Quidenham has been a home-from-home to many families for more than 20 years," she said.
"It is incredibly exciting that EACH are now looking to upgrade these facilities to provide children and families in Norfolk with even better care in a purpose-built environment: a 21st century hospice for 21st century care."
Graham Butland, chief executive of EACH, thanked the Duchess, saying: "Everyone at EACH is honoured and extremely proud to have the Duchess of Cambridge as royal patron and delighted she is able to join us today as we share our vision for the Nook."
Back in June, planning permission was granted to build the new facility but the charity needs to raise millions of pounds before works can begin.
Emma Bridgewater showed Kate her new range of pottery especially designed for the charity
Earlier this summer during Children's Hospice Week, Kate visited one of EACH's centres called The Treehouse, where she met seriously ill youngsters and learnt about how volunteers contributed to the day-to-day running of the facilities. "As Patron of EACH, I have seen first-hand this remarkable and varied work and just how vital the support of staff and volunteers can be to the families of children with life-limiting conditions," Kate, who has been patron since 2012, said during the private visit.
EACH is hoping to build a new hospice called The Nook in the heart of Norfolk
As well as East Anglia's Children's Hospices, Kate is also patron of other children's charities including Action on Addiction, The Art Room and Place2Be.