Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall hosted a magical Christmas party at Clarence House on Thursday 12th December, for five of the children and their families who we care for at Helen & Douglas House. The children, Mia Fryett, aged 10, from Wallingford, Meriel Park, aged 11, from near Chipping Norton, Joshua Dalton, aged 17, from Bampton, Thomas Clack, aged 11, from Bicester and Oliver Johnson, aged 7, from Didcot, all went to Clarence House with our Chief Executive, Clare Periton and other members of hospice staff.
The local children from Helen & Douglas House were invited along with children from Roald Dahl’s Marvelous Children’s charity, to Clarence House to decorate the Christmas tree, to join Her Royal Highness for lunch and to meet Santa’s reindeer at her London home. The Duchess of Cornwall has been Patron of Helen & Douglas House since 2007 and this is the tenth time that families supported by Helen & Douglas House, along with hospice staff, have been invited to Clarence House at Christmas.
The Duchess welcomed and talked to the children and their families individually and then led them through to an adjacent room with a beautiful Christmas tree and table full of decorations so the children could take it in turns to decorate the tree. The children also met The Duchess’ Equerry, Captain Charlie Ross from the Welsh Guards, who let them try on his bearskin and he carefully placed an ornament on the tree with his sword, to cheers of delight.
As they went into the dining room there was a fantastic spread of chocolate Santa’s, candy canes, chocolate coins, gingerbread and fruit. Whilst the children were seated at the table, the Duchess personally served them with a plate of delicious, steaming sausage and mash, over which she poured gravy.
After lunch, The Duchess of Cornwall said ‘I want to thank all of you – the parents, the nurses, the carers – and most of all these wonderful children. I know sometimes it’s not easy, but to see [the children] all today here and looking so happy it’s a real treat for me and I look forward to it every year.’
Everyone then went outside so the children could meet Dancer and Blitzen of the Randwick Reindeer from Gloucestershire. One of our children who went along to this special day was 11 year old Meriel Park from near Chipping Norton. Meriel has a rare condition called Nemaline Myopathy and comes to Helen & Douglas House for respite stays. The Duchess had a chuckle when she was introduced to Meriel’s parents who are called Charles and Camilla.
Meriel’s Mum said ‘We had such a wonderful day and I can’t tell you how much Meriel loved it. We have been talking about reindeers, the Duchess, Charlie the soldier, the gingerbread biscuits, all the policeman, the red carpet and so many other little things all afternoon. There were so many things to take in. I think she will be reliving different bits of it all over Christmas. It really was such a wonderful start to the Christmas holidays for her. It was also such an enormous treat for my husband and myself. For a few hours, I was far from reality and loving every minute of it all’.
Thomas Clack’s Mum Rachel said ‘We had the best day ever! The Duchess and all the other people there were lovely. I got jaw ache from a constant smile all day and came home buzzing. Tom loved asking loads of questions to Camilla’s House Manager and the other staff about the family history and the history of the house. He’s also ticked an item off the bucket list, in his words, by becoming famous by being on the news, seeing himself on YouTube and being in the paper, as his ambition is to be a famous YouTuber. We will never forget this day.’
Clare Periton, Chief Executive of Helen & Douglas House said ‘The children and families had such a magical time. It is such a great privilege to have The Duchess of Cornwall as our patron and this is always such a wonderful occasion. All our families really enjoyed their visit to Clarence House and meeting the Duchess and the reindeer. For our families, Christmas is a time when they can make precious memories which they will treasure forever and this will certainly be one of them that they will always remember.’