Kate Middleton touches hearts at Shooting Star Chase

Surrey Comet: Star: The duchess was well received by families and staff Star: The duchess was well received by families and staff

The Duchess of Cambridge sang songs and played games with children not expected to reach their 19th birthday when she visited a Hampton hospice.

Smiling and laughing with the children and their families, Kate enjoyed an afternoon tea, arts and crafts activity and music therapy session before touring the facilities at Shooting Star Chase on Friday, December 6.

In a private room she also comforted the parents of a one-year-old girl who died on Tuesday.

The parents lost their five-year-old son from the same condition, spinal muscular atrophy, six weeks ago.

Another parent, Nicola Dasilva, from Morden, whose 21-month-old son Frankie was given just a week or two to live when he first arrived at the hospice, said meeting the Duchess was “an incredible experience” that she would never forget.

She said: “She was really down to earth and asked me about Frankie, his condition and the equipment he needs. Frankie has a genetic condition which affects his bones.

“We first came to Shooting Star Chase when he was very ill and we didn’t think he was going to make it.

“We were told he may only have a week or two to live, but he is a fighter and we stayed here for three months.

“The prognosis is two to three years but he’s strong. The support form Shooting Star Chase is amazing, we couldn’t do without them.

“When you’re in this situation it’s difficult to trust anyone with your child but I completely trust everyone here.”

Another parent, Allyson Buck from East Moseley, said she had not told her son Sam or the other children who was coming to visit.

She said: “They thought it was Mr Tumbles but they certainly weren’t disappointed when the Duchess walked in.

“She spent a lot of time talking to the families and got involved in the music session and showed she has a good sense of humour.”

Britt Armstrong-Gash from New Malden, whose daughter Zoe is supported by the hospice, said she told the Duchess how important Shooting Star Chase was to them.

She said: “She was really lovely, very sincere, her beauty shone from within. She asked about how we use the facilities here and what life is like.”

The duchess also spent time with representatives of the 650 volunteers who give their time across the entire charity including in its hospices, shops and support office.

Shooting Star Chase cares for more than 650 families across London and Surrey who have a child with a life-limiting condition and needs to raise £8.5m a year to maintain its care services.

The charity provides short respite breaks, a hospice at home service, day care, end of life care, a symptom-management service and a range of therapies and support groups for the whole family.

Shooting Star Chase’s chief executive, David Burland said he was honoured to welcome the Duchess, who is royal patron of East Anglia's Children's Hospices.

He said: “The duchess is a committed supporter of children’s hospices and showed great knowledge about our vital work supporting children with life-limiting conditions and their families.

“She also took time to speak to families, volunteers and staff to learn more about the impact of our work and the wider palliative care network.”

The newly built Hampton Square came alight with festive cheer as the areas first Christmas tree lit up.

Visitors enjoyed music from a band and carol singers as they wandered through the Christmas market, sampling mince pies and mulled wine, and visited Santa in his grotto on Sunday, December 8.

The day also marked the opening of the Hampton pub, which replaces the former Court Jester.

Hampton North Councillor Geoffrey Samuel said: “This beautiful square has transformed the area.

“The success of our first Christmas brought the community together - a community that is now so proud of its local environment. But this is just the start.

“Conservatives are committed to even further improvements as part of our uplift programme.”


Family moved by duchess

A family from East Molesey enjoyed the company of the Duchess of Cambridge last week.

Allyson Buck and her three children, Imogen, seven, James, five, and Sam, three, met Kate Middleton at the Shooting Star Chase Hospice in Hampton on Friday, December 6.

Mrs Buck’s youngest son, Sam, has the rare vanishing white matter disease (VWM), which has no treatment or cure, and causes a loss of motor control exacerbated by any head trauma or fever.

Children with the disease rarely live more than five to 10 years after diagnosis.

Mrs Buck, of Hurst Road, said: “VWM is a very rare disease, we only know of six others in the UK and there have only been 250 cases reported worldwide.  When we found out about Sam in April we felt very alone, there is no support network for us because there aren't many like us.

“Then we found Shooting Star-Chase and for the first felt like we weren't alone. They care so well for all the kids that are supported not only our Sam. 

“We finally found somewhere for him to go that he loves and we know he is safe and we don't have to worry.”

Sam attends Shooting Star Chase for day care and uses the overnight respite care provided.

The duchess enjoyed an afternoon tea with children and their families, watched a music therapy session and joined children in an arts and crafts.

Mrs Buck, of Hurst Road, said: “She [Kate] was very very kind and patient with the kids.  She made made sure she talked to every family, we didn't once feel like she was rushing to meet the next family while she was talking to us. 

“She took time with each child, asking them questions and really trying to interact with them.  We felt like she really cared.”

The family wants to raise awareness about the devastating disease, which occurs in young children who were previously developing normally.

For more information about Sam and his disease, visit facebook.com/SamvsVWM.

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