On a visit to Norwich, about 110 miles north of London, Kate kick-starts the campaign to raise cash for the new center

By Simon Perry
Updated November 25, 2014 11:15 AM
Credit: WENN

Princess Kate brightened a chilly, foggy morning when she stepped out in scarlet to help raise millions to build a new hospice in England.

The expectant royal, 32, was in Norwich, Norfolk, about 110 miles north of London, on Tuesday to kick off a $16 million fundraising effort on behalf of her charity East Anglia Children’s Hospices.

Wearing a bright-red Katherine Hooker dress and shielding her baby bump with a small bouquet handed to her by several schoolkids, Kate – who traveled from her country home, Anmer Hall, on Queen Elizabeth’s Sandringham estate – met dignitaries before entering a huge auditorium for the launch.

But it was immediately after the event that Kate had one of her more emotional encounters of the day, as she reached out and hugged a mother who had told movingly of how she had lost her infant daughter.

Speaking to grieving Leigh Smith, Kate said, “You’re a very brave lady, and again, I’m just so so sorry.”

“Kate sought me out and gave me a hug just before she left. I was getting quite teary-eyed, she had tears in her eyes,” said Smith, 33, whose baby Beatrice was born with cardiomyopathy a year ago this week – and who passed away in February.

Smith had written to Kate in March, and got a personal letter back.

“I thought that was so lovely, as obviously it was such an honor to hear back from her,” said Smith. “She said she was very touched to hear Beatrice’s story. Beatrice would have been 1 this Friday and I had mixed emotions. But the launch today is a wonderful way to celebrate her life. I just want to do Beatrice proud.”

Kate also held the hand of Jack Cottis, 6, who is blind and wheelchair-bound with an undiagnosed genetic condition that affects his development. His mother Tracy, a civil servant from Colchester, said Kate was “very gentle and very good with Jack – he reached out his hand to her, and she very naturally just took it and stroked it.”

Road to a Modern Hospice

The new hospice facility is EACH’s most ambitious fundraising effort yet, as the organization seeks to transform its aging center into a modern one, set amid woodlands nearby.

Hundreds of guests and supporters from across the county of Norfolk – representing businesses, charitable trusts and volunteer and community groups – were there to learn about the appeal, and how they can help.

In a message on the eve of her visit, Kate spoke of being proud of her involvement with the charity, which supports children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.

“I greatly admire the dedication, generosity and achievements of the charity’s supporters and volunteers, and look forward to seeing the progress of this campaign,” she said.

The chief executive of EACH, Graham Butland, told attendees that Kate – who was sitting at a table aptly called “George,” after her and Prince William‘s 16-month old son – “undoubtedly raised the profile not only of EACH but more importantly the cause of pediatric palliative care both nationally and internationally.” He also told Kate that the organization now has connections with delegates from Malaysia and Australia – “friends we have made as a result of your successful overseas tours.”

A patron of the group of hospices since 2012, Kate has made care of terminally ill children a central part of her public work. On foreign tours, she has visited local hospices as she forges ties with her own charity group while educating herself on the latest developments in child care.

Kate has gradually been easing back into public royal work since succumbing to severe pregnancy sickness during her first trimester. She recently enjoyed a date night at the London Palladium for the Royal Variety Performance, and attended a workshop for up-and-coming athletes run by her charity SportsAid.

And last week, she was guest of honor at an awards night for another of her charities, Place2Be

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