The WellChild Awards sit close to Prince Harry’s heart—and are often one of the highlights of his calendar—so there was no way that he was going to miss the 2021 ceremony during his brief trip to London.
The Duke of Sussex, who is a longtime patron of the charity for seriously ill children, joined a private garden party to help celebrate remarkable children, youth, and carers from across the United Kingdom. Usually a larger ceremony, this year’s event was a more intimate affair, taking place outdoors at London’s Kew Gardens in order to carefully follow coronavirus guidelines and keep vulnerable children in attendance safe.
Having completed his mandatory five-day quarantine in Windsor with a negative COVID-19 test, Harry was cleared to join other charity patrons—including Ed Sheeran—to spend time chatting with each award recipient and their families during the afternoon tea and celebration.
The duke, who is in London for the unveiling of a statue celebrating the life of his mother, the late Princess Diana, cheered as awards were presented under a number of special categories, including Inspirational Child winners Carmela Chillery-Watson, 7, and Anzah Arwani, 11; Inspirational Young Person winners William Cuthill, 13, and Luke Fisher, 17; and Young Carer winners Isaac Vials Moore, 10, and Gracie Davis, 13.
During a speech given at the event, Harry reflected on his 14 years as patron of the national charity. “Since becoming patron of WellChild in 2007, this organization and the people within it have held an extraordinarily special place in my heart,” he said. “I wasn’t a father at the time, and yet the stories of these children and parents transcended that. I didn’t need to be a dad to feel the impact of this invaluable work. Now as a father of two, I feel all the more connected, inspired and in awe of the resilience of these families, who power through indescribable challenges with the support of WellChild.”
He continued, “The health of our children, of all of us, could not have been more on the forefront of our minds during the past year. And, throughout this time, the WellChild community has set an example for how to show up and act with compassion for each other. I could not be prouder to be here, to meet this year’s WellChild Award winners, to thank the nurses and doctors for all they do, and to celebrate these amazing families.”
In addition to helping celebrate the resilience of children living with serious illnesses or complex conditions, Harry also had chats with children and carers about how the past 18 months of the pandemic had affected their lives and the support they have received during this time, particularly through the WellChild Family Tree community.
During his time with seven-year-old Carmela, the duke heard about her experience with congenital muscular dystrophy, a condition that usually sees children live to their late teens as it weakens skeletal and respiratory muscles, and causes heart defects. It was during COVID lockdown in the U.K. that Carmela completed a series of challenges at home, including a 2.6-mile marathon in her garden, to help raise awareness of her condition and $69,000 for the Muscular Dystrophy UK charity. Mom Lucy, who joined her daughter in a 30-day, 300-kilometer Wonder Woman Walk, said, “Carmela never complained once about her pains and discomforts. Just seeing the fundraising money increase was enough for her.”
Harry also chatted with 13-year-old William, who lives with juvenile idiopathic arthritis, which causes painful and debilitating joint flare-ups. Despite undergoing multiple treatment regiments and bullying in school, he has channeled his energy into raising more than $6,900 for the Teapot Trust charity, which he is also an ambassador for. “William soldiers on, thinking of everyone else but himself,” charity-founder Dr. Laura Young says. “He is a very special boy who would be astounded to properly understand how much his help has been appreciated.”
Dressed casually in a pale blue-gray sweater, Harry took to the stage after chatting with the children and their families and carers to introducer singer Anne-Marie for an acoustic performance.
Due to the pandemic, this year’s event was the first WellChild Awards for the duke since October 2019. But despite the disruption caused by the coronavirus, Harry has remained in touch with the organization to hear how many have been taking on the challenges presented by the pandemic. He has also joined a number of video calls with its chief executive, Colin Dyer.
Before the event, Dyer spoke about the importance of WellChild and its work. “There are more children and young people than ever before in the U.K. living with long-term, serious health needs,” he said. “The coronavirus outbreak has placed these children and families under more pressure than many of us can comprehend. The WellChild Awards 2021, in association with GSK, will be a unique opportunity to recognize and highlight the immense challenges they have faced and to celebrate the remarkable positivity, resilience, and spirit they have demonstrated. It will also help us to shine a light on the dedication of those around them, from siblings, professionals, and volunteers who have gone above and beyond to help them through such challenging times.”
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