When Faith Dickinson’s aunt was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, she knew what would bring her some comfort: a new blanket.
“She said she loved it because she got so cold during her treatments,” Dickinson, 14, tells PEOPLE.
Seeing the effect the simple gift had on her aunt Lyndi, and the tears of appreciation from a retiring fourth-grade teacher who received another blanket soon afterwards, made the teen from Toronto, Canada, realize the difference she could make.
“When my mom picked me up that day, I told her that I wanted to make everyone feel that good. Then we came up with Cuddles for Cancer,” she says.
Five years later, Dickinson has helped create 3,500 blankets.
Now, she is set to join 19 other young people from Britain and around the world being celebrated by Prince William and Prince Harry with a special Legacy Award. The honors at St. James’s Palace on Thursday were set up by the Diana Award charity in the name of their late mother Princess Diana, who died 20 years ago this August.
Dickinson’s initiative Cuddles for Cancer will mark its fifth anniversary on July 1 (the day that would have been Diana’s 56th birthday).
“Everyone needs a cuddle during the difficult times in their lives,” Dickinson says, adding that her blankets have been sent all across Canada, the U.S., the U.K., France, Brazil, Africa, Australia and Germany.
The teen also gives talks to schools, churches and businesses as she spreads the word. And she helps veterans and those struggling with what Prince Harry calls the “invisible wounds” of combat. Dickinson hopes to make them for those who are participating in Harry’s Invictus Games, which will come to her home city of Toronto in September.
“I have a special blanket that I make for Canadian soldiers and veterans. I send them to soldiers who are serving overseas or when they return home injured or suffering from PTSD,” she says.
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Dickinson says she appreciates the humanitarian work that Diana did on behalf of several important causes.
“One thing she achieved was showing people that you won’t get AIDS by hugging or even touching someone with it,” she says. “She also tried to stop the use of all land mines because innocent people were dying or being terribly injured from just walking on them. I think that she was very brave and courageous to take action and use her fame to show people what’s right.”
Praising Diana’s sons, she adds, “I love how they aren’t just supporting a cause, but that they are sharing their personal experiences. It was really brave of them to share about what they went through when they lost their mom.”