Ipswich: Chief executive praises her ‘girl-next-door charm’

HOSPICE chiefs have hailed the Duchess of Cambridge’s “girl-next-door” charm after her historic visit to Suffolk.

Kate, in Ipswich to officially open the �3million Treehouse children’s hospice, spent more than two hours inside the state-of-the-art facility, talking to children and their families.

After planting a sapling to commemorate her visit she delighted gathered well-wishers by embarking on a walkabout.

Graham Butland, chief executive of East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices, said the visit had been superb and everything had gone “like clockwork.”

He added: “Her Royal Highness was fantastic – she spent a lot of time speaking to everyone, the children, the families and the supporters and everyone who helped make this a reality.

“She has a natural empathy with the children and families, she’s very much at ease. There’s a rapport, she can drop into any group. She’s the girl next door, as much as she can be.”

Mr Butland said among those she spoke to was a terminally-ill child, who she visited in private and posed for pictures with.

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Hundreds had gathered in the grounds of the hospice in St Augustine’s Gardens to catch a glimpse of the special Royal guest. Several generations were there, from grandmothers, to mothers, to schoolchildren, while dozens more well-wishers lined Bixley Road to witness the historic visit.

“Putting on one of these events is new to us. In retrospect we could have invited more of the public,” said Mr Butland.

“We’d like to say a big thank-you and we’re just sorry we couldn’t involve any more people. But those people are no less thought of.”

Mr Butland said Kate had committed to being the hospice’s patron for at least three years and said he hoped to welcome her back soon.

“It was a superb day – there was lots of planning involved but everything went like clockwork,” he added.

“With this being her first public speech and it going all round the world, it’s brilliant.

“But the point that I want to make is yes, there is great interest, but we still need people in Suffolk and Essex, because without the money coming in we cannot deliver the service, it doesn’t matter how much exposure you get.”