Princess Kate met with families and staff at a children’s hospice on Tuesday to support those fighting life-limiting conditions.
The royal mom visited a center run by one of her key charities, East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices, in Quidenham, Norfolk, about 40 miles south of her Anmer Hall home.
Kate, 35, spent time with several families during her visit, including the family of 6-year-old Isabelle Benton, who uses the hospice services. Isabelle’s mother, Michala Benton, was there with her husband Roger and their other daughters Aimie, 9, Daisy, 4, and Molly, 2.
“She recognized us, as we have met her before. She was quite chatty,” Michala tells PEOPLE. “My daughter Daisy asked Kate what it was like to be a real princess, and Kate said she’s very lucky that she’s very well looked after by her husband. Molly gave her a picture she had made at preschool.”
Kate sat with Isabella, who has a number of neurological conditions, including complex refractory epilepsy and global developmental delay, as well as developing psychological and behavioral issues.
“Now that she’s a mother, she has that total understanding of what it is like,” Michala says. “She made a comment of how Charlotte and George run off in different directions when she is trying to get them ready!”
She adds, “She spent time talking to her and asking us how EACH helps us as a family and what Isabella likes to do here. She was totally genuine, she spent time talking to each family. She made a comment about one girl’s glittery shoes, on their level, knelt down to their level and you could see she genuinely cares. There are no airs and graces, she is totally natural. You can see she wants to be there and see what the families are going through. She is a genuine, caring woman.”
Kate also met with the family of 5-year-old Finnbar Cork, who died last year of an inoperable brain tumor. His sister Nell gave Kate a bouquet of flowers upon her arrival.
“She got down on people’s levels. She made a point of crouching when she was talking with children so she was at eye level, and she sat with the bereaved family. She didn’t stand over them; she sat comfortably and had a good open body language,” Jane Campbell, the service manager at the hospice, tells PEOPLE. “She’s good at putting people at ease and hear their stories.”
The visit also represented a chance for Kate, who wore an emerald green suit by Hobbs, to bring attention to a campaign she’s spearheading — raising funds to build a new, modern facility for the hospice charity The Nook, in nearby Framingham Earl.
The hospice movement — both locally at EACH and around the world — was one of Kate’s first major causes announced after her marriage to Prince William.
EACH Chief Executive Graham Butland said it was Kate’s first visit to their site in Quidenham and hoped staff and volunteers would “explain the difficulties they face as Quidenham has outgrown its home, and the huge difference a purpose-built modern hospice will make to the care they can provide to so many families.”
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She also attended an art therapy session with children.
“She enjoyed doing some painting with the children and nearly got some paint tipped in her lap by one of the little girls!” Campbell adds.
“The Nook Appeal will transform children’s palliative care across Norfolk and we are moving ever closer to the halfway mark of $6.25 million,” says Butland. “We still have some way to go before the new hospice can be built, though, and we need continued help from individuals, trusts and events, and as much corporate and community support as possible.”
Kate recently announced that she and William and their children Prince George and Princess Charlotte will soon shift their home base to London at Kensington Palace, as William leaves his air ambulance job and they step up the amount of work they do publicly and on behalf of Queen Elizabeth.