The Duchess of Cambridge thrilled Norfolk locals and schoolchildren this morning, as she opened a new shop for East Anglia Children’s Hospices (EACH) as the charity’s Royal Patron.
Catherine – who had been criticised for breaking a 115 year-old St Patrick’s Day tradition yesterday – seemed full of smiles and laughter as she arrived in Holt to open EACH’s 21st shop. The royal, who has been a patron of EACH since January 2012, marked the official opening ceremony by cutting a ribbon alongside those receiving care and support from the charity.
EACH supports families and cares for children and young people with life-threatening conditions across Cambridgeshire, Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk. Its aim is at the heart of the Duchess’s work into raising awareness of young people’s mental health and wellbeing and Catherine met some of those benefiting from the charity’s work.
During her visit, the Duchess met 11-year-old Rebekah Hughes who has a severe form of epilepsy, Dravet Syndrome, and seemed perfectly at ease as the youngster led the royal to a display of some of the new shop’s handbags and jewellery.
When asked of her favourite piece, Rebekah said that a silver Gant handbag had taken her fancy, to which Kate replied: “We better put a reserved sticker on that,” before picking out a £1 penguin brooch as her favourite piece.
She also took the time to do a little shopping for Prince George and Princess Charlotte whilst she toured the new facilities. Picking up a Fireman Sam’s Favourite Tales book, the Duchess revealed that the character was George’s favourite at the moment, also purchasing Beatrix Potter Tom Kitten figurine for his younger sister, Charlotte.
The Duchess’s visit brought a large crowd of well-wishers to Holt, a quaint town just a few miles from her family home Anmer Hall. Excited schoolchildren braved the wet weather to greet the 24-year-old royal with homemade flags and presented Catherine with a plethora of flowers and posies.
Although criticised for pulling out of the Irish Guards’ St Patrick’s Day Parade yesterday, the young royal showed no signs of being worried. She stopped to chat to many in the crowd who shared and laugh and joke with the Duchess as she passed along the line. Wrapped up in a blue tweed Missoni coat, Catherine cut an elegant figure as she paused to speak to wheelchair-bound Jill Carrette.
Carrette, who was brought along by an EACH support worker, was ushered to the front of the crowd as photographers began to block her view. When asked how Prince William and her children were, the Duchess replied: ‘Next time I’ll bring William with me.”
Speaking of today’s opening, Tracy Rennie, EACH’s Director of Care said: ‘We are delighted The Duchess of Cambridge will be taking the time to help us celebrate the opening of our new shop in the beautiful town of Holt.
‘We’re really looking forward to becoming an integral part of the town’s thriving and friendly community, and are confident local residents will help us make the shop a great success.’
Last year, EACH’s shops helped generate £700,000 towards supporting its services and relies on donations to stock their shelves. The properties rely on the help of volunteers to keep them operational and the charity has plans to continue to expand over the coming years.
Holt’s Deputy Mayor, Cllr. Bryan Payne, said the shop was a welcome addition to the town, saying: “People come from all over the country to shop in Holt, it has a lot of specialised shops, and I think the visit will be a boost for the town.”
The Duchess became Royal Patron of EACH in 2012 and it forms one of her 12 patronages, others including Place2Be, SportsAid and the Scouts Association.