Kate Middleton made a poignant visit to a new children’s hospice on Friday.
The royal mom of three visited The Nook hospice, which is run by one of her charities near Norwich, five years after she launched an appeal for funds for the new center. She got to see firsthand the outcome of the $13 million initiative to build the new center for severely ill children. She also gave a speech during the outing, telling the group: “This visit today has only reinforced for me just what is at the heart of what you do here, throughout your work, and that is family.”
Kate was greeted by excited children from Poringland Primary School and Framingham Earl High School and and Hobart High Schools waving flags. They welcomed the royal and proudly told her they had raised more than $1,300 towards The Nook. Even before entering the new center, Kate was in full mom mode — asking student Poppy Parslow-Williams, “Are you cold?” and rubbing his arm after seeing him shiver.
“It was amazing. I shook her hand!” he told reporters.
Niamh Bell, 11, added, “She was very kind. Even though she didn’t have a lot of time she still came to talk to us.”
Kate — wearing a magenta skirt suit by Oscar de la Renta that’s been in her closet for years — was shown how families’ lives are being made more comfortable at what East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices believes is the best-equipped center for kids in need in the U.K. EACH was one of the first charities the Duchess of Cambridge adopted at the start of her new life as a royal.
Naomi Wright, whose son Rupert, 4, has a rare, life-limiting multi-systematic disease commonly known as MPS2 or hunger syndrome, shared an emotional moment with the royal mom.
“I cried and I got a little hug and at the end when she walked out she gave me a little wave. Just simple things like that make you realize she’s a very special lady,” Wright says. “She is a mum herself and you get that sense that she does understand. She’s not doing it because she has to but because she has to. This is something that means a lot to her.”
Nancy Best, from Dallas, Texas, was over for the opening as she has donations towards the building of the hospice.
“She is so enthusiastic, she is remarkable. She is sincere. It obviously touches her. She started this [patronage] before she was mother. But having three children — you feel she feels blessed and lucky,” Best says.
The new building is a vast improvement from the previous setting, and includes areas for clinical care and therapy rooms, enabling EACH to meet rising, and increasingly-complex, demand for its services. During her tour, Kate, 37, saw the hospice’s sensory room and its central care area where she chatted with families and children taking part in arts and crafts activities.
“The Nook has been a superb achievement by everyone here as well as all our volunteers and supporters across Norfolk, and even further afield,” said Tracy Rennie, the charity’s acting chief executive.
“There have been so many fantastic reactions from all those people, from fellow care professionals and, most importantly, after holding an open day attended by over 200 children, young people and family members towards the end of September, from those who access our care and support,” Rennie added. “I was fortunate enough to witness the joy and excitement of the first child through the doors here for care as they explored the soft play room, tried out the furniture and found their bedroom, with personalized tray of favorite toys and activities, and it was incredibly moving.”
For Kate, the charity is a key cause and it’s based not far from the country home in Norfolk she shares with husband Prince William and their three children — Prince George, 6, Princess Charlotte, 4, and Prince Louis, 1.
“I feel as though we have grown up with her,” outgoing chief executive Graham Butland told PEOPLE earlier this week.
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Butland was there when Kate, 37, made her first-ever public speech as she opened their hospice in nearby Ipswich.
“She hasn’t lost the common touch. She can still empathize with the children and families who we care for. Whenever she comes — and with private visits without the gaze of the press — the feedback we get from families is tremendous.”
Kate released a message of support in honor of Children’s Hospice Week in June, saying: “Children’s hospices provide vital sanctuaries for those experiencing the very toughest of times. They help families and carers build life long memories that are poignant, happy and often filled with laughter,” Kate’s touching message begins. “Whether through specialist play aimed at deepening relationships between children and their families, or through art and music therapy that helps young people express themselves and release their thoughts and feelings.”