Prince William and Kate, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, visit Keech Hospice
- Credit: Archant
Two years after their brother died after bravely battling many health problems, there was just one thing on Jamie and Ethan Coniam’s minds – a big hug from Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge.
She and the Duke of Cambridge visited Keech Hospice in Luton today (Wednesday) to help commemorate the charity’s quarter-century of providing adult care.
Looking cool despite the searing heat - which rocketed to over 30 deg C - they were greeted by patients, volunteers and staff, to learn more about the charity, including its bereavement support and art therapy services.
And with the famous couple arriving 35 minutes late, an apologetic Prince William grinned ruefully at those waiting patiently at the entrance to the children’s hospice and said: “Sorry to keep you waiting.”
The Duchess of Cambridge, wearing an L.K. Bennett dress and shoes, initially greeted dignitaries and Keech staff, before the couple toured the adult and children’s hospice.
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The Herts Advertiser was at the commemoration, joining a large contingent of media at the anniversary event.
During their one-hour-long visit, the Royals were presented with a personalised “memory jar” by Jamie, 10, and Ethan, 6, Coniam, whose brother, Kieran, died at the age of 10 at Keech Hospice in October 2014.
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Afterwards, an impressed Ethan said: “It was great because I didn’t ever think I would get to meet them. I felt really nervous.
“I gave Kate a hug. That was good. I really liked it. I really liked meeting them because it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Jamie, who explained how the memory jar is a tool used in pre and post bereavement support to help adult and child patients, said: “I think they are very nice. They were very easy to speak to and they were interested in finding out about Kieran.”
Their proud mum, Fiona, said that £40,000 had been raised for Keech Hospice through Kieran’s Climbers, a fundraising group organised to raise money to buy vital equipment.
Fiona said: “They were very personable and very easy to talk to, and seemed genuinely interested.”
Among those thrilled to host the Royals was volunteer Ron Willet, 83, who is the charity’s head gardener.
Ron became a volunteer following the death of his wife at the hospice in July 2000.
He said: “I have met King George VI and the Queen Mother, and I was flown from Egypt in 1953 for the Coronation, when I was serving the 1st Battalion Scots Guards.
“But I haven’t met anyone from the Royal family face-to-face since then.”
The octogenarian, who wore his Guards Brigade tie especially for the occasion, added: “It’s fantastic to have them visit and it’s a great advert for Keech. People love them because they are down to earth and just lovely people.
“They are hard workers - they definitely are not lazy! Having them here is a great boost for the hospice.”
Prince William spoke with a family whose mum had died, telling them: “It’s important to keep talking as a family to keep their memory alive. I miss my mother every day. Talk about it and keep talking about it.”
He told them he knew how they felt and that, “It will get better with time.”
A colourful posy was presented to Kate by seven year old Evie Farmer, from Stevenage.
She attends the hospice’s “Sparklers Group”, a monthly support group for siblings.
Evie’s brother, Charlie, 9, has infantile spasms, epilepsy and mitochondrial disorder, a very rare genetic condition for which there is no cure.
Their mum, Dawn, said: “Of course, Evie doesn’t know Sparklers is a pre and post bereavement support group for siblings, she just thinks she is having fun.
“Sparklers helps Evie mix with other children who are in the same situation as she is. She understands them and they understand her.”
The 25th anniversary celebration cake was designed and made by Sarah Clayton. Sarah worked in the kitchen of Keech Hospice Care providing meals for patients and families, and as a volunteer for the charity for four years before setting up from Novelties Cakes in Luton.
Liz Searle, the hospice’s chief executive officer, said: “As the adult hospice for Luton and South Beds and the children’s hospice of Beds, Herts and Milton Keynes, we are delighted to welcome Their Royal Highnesses to Keech.”
She said she was, “very proud to show the Duke and Duchess our excellent adult and children’s facilities which as a charity we provide to patients and their families at a time in their lives they need it most”.
The hospice provides nurse and doctor led clinics managing symptoms and pain, social workers, music and art therapy, complementary therapies and inpatient stays.
It costs £5.3 million every year to ensure the hospice’s survival and the charity relies on 70 per cent of this funding to come from its community – including St Albans district.
For more information, see www.keech.org.uk