Duchess of Cambridge makes first public speech at charity visit

The Duchess of Cambridge has made her first public speech during a visit to one of her charities in Ipswich.

Hundreds of people gathered to watch the address, marking the opening of the Treehouse, a hospice run by East Anglia Children's Hospices (Each).

The Duchess praised the work of Each, which supports families and cares for young people with life-threatening conditions, as "inspirational".

She also toured the facilities, met ill children, and planted a tree.

'A place of fun'

Speaking to the audience, she thanked her hosts for making her "feel so welcome", adding that Prince William - who is currently on an RAF search and rescue pilot deployment in the Falklands - "would love it here".

She admitted her first visit to the Each hospice in Milton had bucked her preconceived ideas: "Far from being a clinical, depressing place for sick children it was a home.

"Most importantly it was a family home... a place of fun.

"Today I have seen again that the Treehouse is all about family and fun. For many this is a home from home - a lifeline enabling families to live as normally as possible during a very precious period of time."

The Duchess added: "What you do is inspirational. It is a shining example of the support and the care that is delivered, not just here, but in the children's hospice movement at large up and down the country."

"The feelings you inspire - feelings of love and of hope - offer a chance to families to live a life they never thought could be possible."

The audience cheered after the speech, which will be the first of many for the Duchess.

'Kate broke the ice'

During the visit, the Duchess was presented with a posie by six-year-old Tilly, who was diagnosed with a heart condition as a baby and who has been cared for at the hospice.

Image caption The duchess carefully researched her choice to be royal patron of East Anglia's Children's Hospices

Tilly's mother Jeanette Jennings described the moment: "Meeting a member of the Royal Family has been one of Tilly's dreams. She has been so excited. This has meant her dream coming true.

"She has been carrying around Kate's picture around with her ever since she knew she was going to meet her."

And Mrs Jennings was quick to praise the Duchess' relaxed manner: "Kate laughed. It broke the ice... She seemed very friendly and approachable."

The Duchess was also shown around the Treehouse, seeing some of the bedrooms and meeting other young patients who have been receiving care at the charity.

In one music therapy room, Kate heard 10-year-old Bethany Woods' rendition of Rainbow Connection, a well-known children's song from The Muppet Movie.

'Extraordinarily grateful'

Hundreds of locals arrived at Treehouse early this morning to see the Duchess, lining the barriers outside the hospice and watching young people performing music, dance and acrobatics.

There was a party atmosphere as artists waved Union flags and drummers played for the crowds.

Programmes printed for the day's occasion featured a letter from the Duchess in which she commended the charity.

"Today here in Ipswich I would like to celebrate Each's latest bold step forward - the opening of the Treehouse, this fantastic purpose-built hospice which was made possible by donations from the public."

She added: "I am extraordinarily grateful for the opportunity to be royal patron, and I strongly encourage you to continue to support Each's invaluable work."

Various dignitaries assembled to meet the Duchess, including the Lord-Lieutenant of Suffolk, Suffolk High Sheriff, the chairman of Suffolk county council, the mayor of Ipswich, and executives of the charity Each.

It was announced in January that the Duchess would become patron of the Treehouse, a charity she chose to support after personally researching her selection.

She is now president of four charities, including the Treehouse hospice.

Back in 1989 Princess Diana opened Each's first hospice in Milton, Cambridgeshire.

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