WITH a focus on young children and championing mental health causes, Kate Middleton has taken a unique approach to public service.
The Duchess of Cambridge, who turns 40 on January 9, has carefully considered how her skills and passions can be best used to serve the nation.
Prior to deciding where to focus her support, she took part in a number of “off-the-radar meetings” – according to sources – to ensure she was knowledgeable and to work out how she could help.
Her first engagement was on February 24, 2011, when she attended a lifeboat naming ceremony on the promenade at Trearddur Bay in Anglesea, Wales.
Kate, who made 115 engagements last year, has gradually gone on to cement herself as a key player within The Firm and now is treasured in the hearts of the public.
To many she’s considered the Royal Family’s “secret weapon” due to her ability to bring star quality and regal charm while also remaining relatable and humble.
As the Duchess marks her milestone birthday, those who have met her tell how she really cares and has never forgot them.
Kate gave me the confidence to perform at Eurovision – even though I didn't know who she was!
Bianca Nicholas, 32, from Tonbridge, Kent
I first met Kate when I was 19 years old when the charity Starlight Children’s Foundation made my dreams come true by allowing me to perform at a glitzy event in front of Prince William and Harry in 2008.
Singing has always been my passion and has helped to improve my lung function, which has been affected since I was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at three months old.
Thankfully, with advancements in treatment I’m doing considerably better now, but when I was a child a doctor told my mum that I wouldn’t live past the age of nine.
I was really nervous when I belted out Labi Siffre’s Something Inside So Strong at the event but it instilled me with confidence that would lead me to represent the UK at the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest.
After I finished the song, I was beckoned over by Prince William, who I shared half a seat with, and he was very complimentary about my voice.
Then a woman I didn’t recognise came over. I knew she was important but I had no idea who she was and we spoke for half an hour, during which she told me she wished she could sing like me.
She was naturally down-to-earth and really kind as I told her about Starlight and how they put on performances for children in hospitals and arranged trips and games to keep us entertained.
I couldn’t believe Kate remembered who I was and everything we had spoken about before
When she mentioned her mum had a party planning company I asked if she could help the charity – it was quite cheeky and if I knew who she was I probably wouldn’t have asked.
Later, while speaking to someone from Starlight they told me, “You realise you were talking to Kate Middleton, right?”
I was so embarrassed but due to being so nervous and starstruck, I had no idea.
That wasn’t my only meeting with the Duchess.
She fulfilled her promise to support Starlight and when we came face-to-face a year later she called to me from across the room and said: “Bianca, how are you?”
I couldn’t believe Kate remembered who I was and everything we had spoken about before. She instantly put me at ease and had this very kind aura about her.
Later we spoke multiple times on the phone and I’ve watched her blossom into her role within the Royal Family.
I feel very protective towards Kate and stick up for her if anyone says a bad word against her because I know how hard she works behind the scenes, often without praise.
My performance in front of the Cambridges helped me to overcome my nerves and keep calm when I could physically hear my own heart beating through my chest.
In 2015, I was part of the duo Electro Velvet who performed at Eurovision. It felt like a bit of a poisoned chalice at the time because it was in the run-up to Brexit but now I’m proud that we managed to get five points.
I often think back to meeting Kate and today I would like to wish her a happy birthday.
I want to thank her for being so sweet when I met her and for everything that she did for Starlight. I hope to see her again one day so I can say this in person.
For more information visit: www.starlight.org.uk.
Kate planted a sunflower in memory of our late son
Carla Delf, 38, from Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire
When my son Stuie, now 15, raced into our bedroom to tell us he was going to do some fundraising like Captain Sir Tom Moore, I must admit I laughed.
I feel guilty about that now but at the time I worried about him being disappointed because I didn't believe he would get the same level of support.
He decided to run 5km each day in May last year in memory of his younger brother and best friend Fraser, nine, who died as a result of Coats Plus Syndrome four months earlier.
Our son was diagnosed with the syndrome that affects the organs and brain one year prior and sadly, soon after, his health rapidly declined.
Throughout our heartache, there was assistance from East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH), who helped us out with accommodation and support.
During our time there, they cooked our every meal, did our washing and even revamped the hospital ward so my husband Stuart, 43, and I could renew our wedding vows.
EACH took all of our responsibilities away from us, which allowed us to spend the final seven weeks of Fraser’s life as a family and not have to worry about anything else.
They cared for us during our darkest moments and arranged arts and crafts, trips from many Father Christmases and much more, which helped us to focus on making valuable memories together.
We were so touched that she wanted to honour him and she couldn’t have picked a better flower
Their support made Stuie want to give back and in turn, his 5k May runs helped to give us all a focus during such a difficult time.
I was surprised by the amount of support he received. On the last day of his last run, people were cheering him on, clapping their hands and banging pots and pans together.
Some people had written words of encouragement on the street in chalk, like "Go on Stuie!", which was incredible and completely blew us away.
He raised £18,500 for EACH and shortly after he completed his fundraising we received an email asking if we wanted to have a Zoom call with Kate and Camilla.
It was a real shock and we were very nervous but they were really lovely. Kate had this ability to put us all at ease and was lovely.
She listened as we talked about Fraser, Stuie’s fundraising and EACH – after Kate asked if she could plant a sunflower in her garden in memory of our son.
We were so touched that she wanted to honour him and she couldn’t have picked a better flower because like Fraser it was bright and colourful.
She sent that sunflower to Milton Hospice and we’ve since been able to bring it home to replant in our garden so that we have more ways to remember him each year.
We took the seeds from the sunflower and gave them to our close family and friends so that they can have a part of Fraser too.
Not only that, Kate invited us to the Westminster Abbey Christmas concert last month, which was an honour and something none of us will ever forget.
Personally, I want to thank Kate for recognising Stuie and Fraser and to wish her a happy 40th birthday.
For more information visit: www.each.org.uk.
Meeting her was one of the best days of my life
Holocaust survivor Ike Alterman, 93, from Manchester
As soon as the Duchess sat down with me on the steamboat on Lake Windermere in September we were like friends.
She was so interested to hear about my life in Poland before World War II, about the concentration camps and how I managed to make my way to Britain at the age of 16.
I was so impressed by her knowledge of the Holocaust and how 300 orphaned Jewish refugees, including myself, were brought to the Lake District in Cumbria in 1945.
Out of all of my family members I was the only one to survive the war, losing my parents, my sister, my brother, all my grandparents and aunties.
One day the Germans told all the Jews in our town to congregate in the square, my brother who was only nine was marched off with many others and never seen again.
When we arrived at Auschwitz I was just 14 and I was tattooed with a number and we heard about other prisoners being gassed to death.
Windermere was like a paradise and Britain gave us the chance to start a new life, which I did by setting up a jewellery business in Manchester.
These moments of recognition from the Royal Highnesses mean so much after what I went through
The Duchess spent longer with us than planned, she wanted to hear our stories.
I have spoken in colleges and societies about the Holocaust and it is so good to know that the Duchess is also dedicated to making sure others remember what happened.
At the end of her visit I told her ‘remember, to give your children a big hug from me’ and she said ‘I will.’
It was one of the best days of my life, without a doubt.
Then, to my surprise, we received an invitation to attend a carol service which the Duke and Duchess organised at Westminster Abbey in London.
Her Royal Highness had arranged seats for us right on the front row and as she was walking down with her husband she came over to talk to us.
She introduced His Royal Highness to me and he told me how powerful my book is.
On her way out the Duchess smiled at us and it gave me such a lift.
These moments of recognition from the Royal Highnesses mean so much after what I went through.
For more information visit: www.holocaust.org.uk.
Kate helped bring in £245K of donations for crisis-hit parents and children
Danielle Flecher-Horn, 34, founder of baby bank AberNecessities, in Aberdeenshire
The pandemic has brought to light how close we all are to the breadline, but for families already living in poverty, this threat is even worse.
At AberNecessities, we’ve seen a 900 per cent increase in the number of people who have needed our baby bank services to deal with financial hardship.
Since we launched in May 2019, we’ve been able to provide struggling families and single mothers with baby formula, nappies, clothing and support during their time of need.
Without this help, children’s relationships with their caregivers can deteriorate and develop into trauma during adulthood.
For example, if you leave a baby in a dirty nappy because you can't afford to change them it reduces their trust and stress hormones run through their body.
The importance of baby banks struck a chord with the general public during the pandemic and more people became aware of the work that charities like ours do.
So when Kate Middleton’s team named us as one of the three organisations who would take part in her initiative to help these families, it was absolutely fantastic.
Her team was so kind, considerate and very sensitive, they made sure we were all ok and the work we were undertaking wasn’t too onerous.
When I met Kate at a Sheffield baby bank in August 2019, it was lovely. It was like meeting an old friend you haven’t seen in a long time.
The Duchess' work will change the lives of so many… our appreciation goes beyond words
She has this great ability to make you feel at ease and it was immediately obvious how warm, personable and interested she was in us as individuals and our organisations.
From the initial 20 seconds of chatting to her, I could tell she likes to help and take part in everything, she’s not a bystander. It was like having a friend volunteer with us.
Kate managed to rally support from 19 British brands and retailers across the UK, who donated 20,000 items that were worth in excess of £245,000.
It had a huge impact on the families and children living their own crisis, in the midst of a national crisis with the coronavirus pandemic.
On the day, Kate helped to unload items from pallets, opened boxes with us and arranged them ready to be distributed to families all over the UK.
We want to thank Kate for her extraordinary act of kindness and for raising awareness of the importance of early years development.
The Duchess' work will change the lives of so many and on behalf of our team, I offer our most since thanks for all of her work – our appreciation goes beyond words.
We would like to wish her a very happy birthday and say we are extremely proud and privileged to have worked with the Duchess and the Royal Foundation initiative.
For more information visit: www.abernecessities.co.uk.
My daughter is now the happy little girl who met Kate, not the girl with blood cancer
Lynda Sneddon, 38, from Falkirk, Scotland
When I posted a photograph of my daughter Mila staring through the window at her dad Scott, now 52, in March 2020, I never expected the image would go viral.
Within the first hour of making it public, we had 10,000 shares, which was ridiculous, but I felt it helped to raise awareness of childhood blood cancer and the symptoms to look out for.
Mila was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia four months earlier in November 2019 after struggling with constant tiredness and her skin turning a yellowish colour.
Two days after our little girl had gleefully danced at Scott’s 50th birthday, she started to experience pain in her legs, which led us to consult our local GP.
Our world was turned upside down by the diagnosis and afterwards she went through multiple rounds of chemotherapy, lumbar punctures and having to isolate due to being immunocompromised.
As the reality of the pandemic started to unfold, Scott moved out of our home for seven weeks so he could continue to work without putting Mila at risk.
When I made the viral post of our girl reaching out to her dad, I wanted to show those moaning about only getting one hour outside to exercise each day what it was like for families battling cancer.
Mila, who was advised to shield by the Scottish Government, never complained once about being unable to leave the house besides going in the garden or to the hospital for treatment.
The photo became part of the Duchess’ Hold Still series at the National Portrait Gallery and shortly after we received a message asking if Mila would be willing to talk to Kate.
During a two-minute Zoom call, the Duchess congratulated our daughter and said she hoped to meet her one day.
It was really nice and cheered Mila up, but I didn’t think it was going anywhere until six months later when we received a call from Kensington Palace asking if we could meet Kate at Holyroodhouse.
From all of us, I want to wish Kate a happy birthday and I’m sure Mila would sing the happy birthday song to her if she could
The experience was amazing, Mila was dressed for the occasion in her pink dress and tiara and during their 45 minutes together was proud to have drawn a robot for the Duchess.
Cheekily, she asked Kate if she could have something to eat and when we got back to our hotel room, her wish to have a bowl of Rice Krispies was served by a butler on the finest set of crockery I’ve ever seen.
Last month, we were flown down to London for the Christmas carol service where Mila was asked to read a prayer to the congregation.
After that very surreal moment, we all sat down next to members of the Royal Family.
Those moments made Mila feel really special and it was a good distraction from her treatment.
Now she’s recognised as the happy little girl who met Kate Middleton and not the poor little girl with cancer.
When Mila returned to school she had physically changed quite a lot and had no hair due to chemotherapy.
She faced a lot of difficult questions but meeting a real-life princess gave her something incredible to talk about.
Mila loves to tell everyone about the drawing she did for Kate and that she performed multiple twirls and cartwheels for her too.
From all of us, I want to wish Kate a happy birthday and I’m sure Mila would sing the happy birthday song to her if she could.
I’d also like to thank you for giving Mila a platform, she raised over £10,000 for Blood Cancer UK, which in part is because of meeting the Duchess of Cambridge and her many fans who donated to the cause.
We are just a normal run-of-the-mill kind of family but Kate is such a gentle soul that she immediately made my daughter feel comfortable.
Mila, who is now six, will have her last chemotherapy session on March 31 and we’re hoping she will be cancer-free. I’m very proud of all that Mila has achieved and can’t thank the Duchess enough.
For more information visit: www.bloodcancer.org.uk
Kate helped us support 33,000 families in need including 2,200 from Afghanistan
Cat Ross, 43, CEO of Baby Basics UK, from Sheffield
Kate first became involved with our charity at the start of the pandemic in March 2020 and volunteered at our centre in Dersingham, West Norfolk.
She wanted to get more involved in the work that we do and months later we were part of an initiative to support baby banks alongside AberNecessities and Little Village.
The Duchess was able to attract a lot of corporate donations alongside the high-end second-hand toys, clothes and equipment we provide to families in need.
Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen a 168 per cent increase in demand for our services across our 54 centres nationally and a 400 per cent rise in Sheffield, where we started in 2009.
We’ve been able to support 33,000 children and families, including 2,200 from Afghanistan and 44 bridging hotels that help to resettle them.
In August 2020, Kate got stuck in and helped us to unload and sort through the corporate donations in Sheffield as well as talking to families in person and others later on Zoom.
One lady who benefitted from our services told the Duchess, “When you help a mum, you help the entire family,” which resonated with us all.
More recently, myself and two families were invited to the Together At Christmas carol service and they were blown away to have been asked to attend something so prestigious.
It’s been fantastic to see the Duchess’ continued commitment to ensuring children have the best start in life
Meeting Kate was amazing, she’s really down-to-earth and a genuine individual who cared about our and families’ experiences – she wanted to know how to help us.
It’s really apparent that she can relate to the families and she wasn’t scared to share her own experiences as a mother of three.
We continue to see working families struggling to make ends meet and now the cost of living increase will have a massive knock-on effect on them too.
Each month there is a five to 10 per cent increase in the demand for our help.
Our hope is to take away the stress from families so they don’t have to choose between heating their homes and feeding or clothing their children.
Parents typically go without things to support their children and so we provide items to help the whole family.
We regularly hear stories about mums crying when they receive a bottle of shampoo from our provisions – some of them have had to wash their hair with washing-up liquid or soap for months.
It’s been fantastic to see the Duchess’ continued commitment to ensuring children have the best start in life, which allows them the best chance to lead great and fulfilling lives.
We would like to wish Kate a fantastic 40th birthday and say thank you from all of us at Baby Basics UK and the many families she has helped us to support.
For more information visit: www.baby-basics.org.uk.
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