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Royal Central Conversations: meeting The Duchess of Cambridge with the Scouts

On Monday, The Duchess of Cambridge visited 23rd Poplar Beaver Scouts in East London, supporting the Scouts in her role as volunteer. The session was about understanding how those with disabilities live, and Cub leader and paratriathlete Steve Judge also attended the event. I spoke with Steve and asked him about the night.

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Hi Steve. Thanks for talking to me about your ‘date with The Duchess’ yesterday! Tell me a bit about yourself and your background and how you came to be at the Beaver meeting last night.
12 years ago, I was in a car accident and injured one of my legs. They didn’t think I would walk on my leg again, but I set myself challenges. Gaining badges in Scouts taught me how to set goals and work towards them. I remember taking the badge book home and looking and seeing which badges I wanted to get next. I would then ask my Scout leader to help me achieve my goals. This served me well later on in life when I set goals in my rehabilitation and also in my sport to achieve. I began to stand and walk and grew my leg back to prove myself, and also that the accident didn’t have too much of an effect on me. I refused to make excuses.

I went on to become a para-triathlete as I love running, but it can be painful, so I swim and cycle too. Then I go back to running when the pain has stopped. I was British champion in my category and also won world champion status. I decided to set up my own business as a motivational speaker (I have recently got back from Mexico where I did some speaking); I feel I have a skill and should share it and my story with others.

The Beaver meeting was about learning and understanding about those with disabilities, and I was there to talk about myself and how I managed to get to the position I am in now, as a Cub Leader of 6th Eckington Scout Group in Derbyshire (which I absolutely love).

I was asked to the event yesterday and told there was going to be a special guest, and I just assumed it would be Bear Grylls or someone like that, but I was told on the night it would be The Duchess!

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Steve with his Cubs

So how did you become involved with Scouting?

I was Cub Scout from the age of eight to 10 and a half, and my first three badges were swimming cycling and running. These served me very well later on in life; again it proves the point that Scouting gives young people the opportunity to try different skills and develop themselves. I didn’t know then that I would become a world champion in paratriathlon.

Since my son and daughter (Robert and Susannah) joined the Scouts, I have gone back to the movement to volunteer my services and time as a Cub Leader.

I want to offer scouting opportunities to the community that I live in so that they can have fun challenge and adventure. As well as this I want them to have life skills that may help them in their future. Similar to my inspirational and motivational talks I want to give something back in life and in Scouting…just like The Duchess. If she’s got time to volunteer, everyone else can too, and her involvement shows that message.

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Steve with his son and daughter, Robert and Susannah

What was it like to meet The Duchess of Cambridge?

She was so, so nice. She was asking the Beavers what they were doing and what badges they had. I was aware I was there to talk to them about my story, but she was really interested in them, and I didn’t want to spoil the moment for them. They didn’t quite realise who it was and so were being like other normal 5-8 year olds: noisy, cheeky, disruptive. You can tell she’s a parent. They’d be chatting away and she’d say something like: “Oh that’s interesting. Shall we listen now?” When they’re older I’m sure they’ll be like ‘Oh yeah, I remember when I met The Duchess of Cambridge!’

Then she spoke with me, and was asking all about my talks and what I had planned for the future. I really enjoyed the night. I’ve been replaying the night in my head ever since.

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Was Kate good at the activities? They looked hard!

She was! We tried to do things blindfolded with a guide, like blind athletes do. And we also tried to sign the Scouts code [‘I promise to do my best, to be kind and helpful and to love my world’] She could have just stood there with her hands at her side and not taken part, but she had a go and pitched in. She was down-to-earth. She didn’t know what she was doing – neither did I – but we copied the person who was showing us what to do. It’s important for Beavers to just have a go at different skills and she demonstrated that to them.

During the activities, she’d get down onto the kids’ level and talk to them. She asked how she could help, keen to get involved. You can see she’s caring and active.

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At the end of the night, Catherine handed out the badges to everyone. Considering there was about 20 kids there, she took her time, and asked them all about their badges and where they would put their new one.  It was lovely to see and again you can see she has a son. She impressed me – I’d give her 10/10.

Can you pick a favourite part of the night?

It would have to be the closing ceremony, when Kate handed out the badges.

You can read more about Steve’s story at steve-judge.co.uk

Photos: Steve Judge/Martyn Milner/Scouting Association

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