Sunday, 19 May 2024
Sunday, 19 May 2024

Learning disabled woman meets Princess Anne at Buckingham Palace

A learning disabled woman from Bedfordshire had ‘the best day ever’ when she spoke personally with The Princess Royal at the Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace yesterday.

Jenny, who lives at 117 Hitchin Road in Shefford, Bedfordshire, a residential service run by learning disability charity Hft, was accompanied to the event by the manager of the service, Claire Davies-Sond. The Princess Royal is the Patron of Hft.

Claire said:

“I’m speechless, it was incredible and we both just had the best day ever.”

Jenny was up and ready for the day very early and the two were waved off by other residents, who were getting ready for a garden party of their own.

Claire said:

“I wish I could have captured the moment we were cheered as we got into the taxi outside 117.”

Due to train strikes, the pair arrived in London early but had fun people-watching and finally getting into the queue to see the Royal Family.

Claire added:

“We managed to get fairly close to the King on two occasions and even I was star-struck and kept asking myself if it was all real.

“I persevered with trying to ensure Jenny could actually talk to Princess Anne and, eventually, it paid off when her personal protection officer brought her over and she said: ‘Are you Jenny?’. We introduced ourselves and told her we were from Hft – it was very exciting!

“What an opportunity to attend this special occasion on behalf of Hft. The day was made even more special by the fact we were able to share our experience with the rest of 117 by managing to create something special for the other residents too.

“As soon as we found out we were going to the Palace, my team and I started Project Palace, if all of 117 couldn’t go to afternoon tea at the Palace, then the afternoon with a Palace feel would come to them in our own grounds.”

Since February, staff have been sourcing enough tables, a red carpet, cardboard cut-outs of the Prince and Princess of Wales and costumes for the residents. All of the items were sourced through Facebook Marketplace, most of which, including the Union Jack table and chairs and tea platters, were donated once the sellers found out what they were for.

Learning disabled woman meets Princess Anne at Buckingham Palace

Two parents, Sally and John Rowling, acted as ‘King and Queen’ for the day, which was also attended by the Mayor of Shefford, Ken Pollard, and his wife. Even ‘Harry and Meghan’ made an appearance.

Senior support worker Hayley Cuozzo gave a speech, as did one of Hft’s Trustees, Hugh Piper:

“It was wonderful to see how happy everyone was, with smiles on their faces and getting into the spirit of it. The highlight of the day was how proud I felt of the team and how happy the residents were.”

Claire concluded:

“I’m so proud to work in care, to work for Hft and so incredibly proud of my team for pulling off the best day ever.”

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