They loved meeting a real princess! Kate Middleton met with terminally ill and grieving children coping with loss at Rainbow Place Children's Hospice in Hamilton, New Zealand on Friday, April 11. This was the Duchess of Cambridge's first solo engagement -- sans baby Prince George and Duke of Cambridge William -- on the three-week royal tour of Australia and New Zealand.
Greeted by more than 40 children and their families, Middleton was given a tour of the facility, which helps kids with life-limiting illnesses and those grieving from loss. "There should be more places like this," the Duchess was overheard saying via AFP. Middleton met with Rainbow Place's chief executive Craig Tamblyn for a briefing. She then went into a private meeting with a 12-year-old boy named Sam Ogilvy, whose father drowned two years ago. Ogilvy explained the sequence of events to Middleton by using a sand tray. "I told her about my journey," Ogilvy said. "She was really nice. She quite liked the sand tray idea of telling the story."
Middleton then went to a play therapy room where she met a 6-year-old girl named Bailey Rupe, who goes to Rainbow Place for counseling sessions. "Are you having tea?" the Duchess asked the little girl. "Can I sit with you? How is mummy doing? (Rupe's mother, Jennifer Dooblabh, 27, was diagnosed with breast cancer and given six weeks to live when she was pregnant with her second child, son Matthias, now 3 months.) "Do you find it difficult sometimes?" Middleton asked the little one. "You're a very brave little girl."
Rupe told Us Weekly afterwards, "I was excited to meet a real princess and it made me feel like a princess for the day, too."
The Duchess also stopped by an art therapy room, where she met five kids who were decorating boxes to convey how they were coping with their parents' illnesses. "It looks far to tidy to be an art therapy room," Middleton joked with the children. "There's normally paint everywhere and I normally end up getting some on myself." Sisters Nicole Keene, 11, and Ashleigh Keene, 9, affected by their mother Deborah's terminal throat cancer were in the art therapy room with the Duchess. "It's good here because it helps us open up and talk about it," Nicole said. "Kate was very pretty so it was very exciting to meet her."
Middleton then made her way out to a magical garden, where she met 17-year-old Hamish Taylor, who's affected by muscular dystrophy. Taylor gave the Duchess a gift of a gray onesie for Prince George with his name embroidered on it. "She said 'Thank you very much, I can't wait to show it to him,'" Taylor recalled of their conversation.
The Duchess also spoke to a mother undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. It turned out Jacqui Frazer, 47, once had tea with her father in law Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana. "I told her that when Charles and Diana were over in 1983, I went to tea with them so it's a nice bit of symmetry to meet her, too," Frazer explained.
Clad in an emerald coat by Erdem, the Duchess, on her way out, was handed a bouquet of cream flowers from a 6-year-old girl named Kaiya Miller, who battles cystic fibrosis. "I thought the Duchess would have smiley eyes," Miller said. "And she did!"