The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s visit to Bear Cottage children’s hospice is all about “creating happy memories” for sick kids and their families, the centre’s head nurse says.
The royal couple – and Prince George – are in Sydney on the first leg of their 10-day Australian tour that will also take them to Brisbane, Uluru, Adelaide and Canberra.
In Sydney, the young royals’ itinerary includes tourist icons such as the Sydney Opera House, the Blue Mountains, Taronga Zoo and Manly beach.
But they’re also scheduled to spend some time at Manly’s Bear Cottage – one of only two children’s hospices in Australia. The other is Hummingbird House in Brisbane.
“Part of Bear Cottage is about creating happy memories for children whose lives are shortened and this is certainly going to create a very happy memory for those families,” the centre’s nursing unit manager, Narelle Martin, told AAP.
“To the families it means a lot to them – a really memorable memory.”
Bear Cottage can house up to eight children and their extended families.
It’s accommodation includes two private two-bedroom apartments.
Since the cottage opened 12 years ago, it has been a second home for the families of hundreds of dying children.
Some have cancer, others have rare genetic disorders. The kids come for respite for a week at a time or for longer if they’re at the end of their illness.
Ms Martin hoped the royal visit would also raise awareness about the cottage’s work.
“A lot of people don’t know that bear cottage exists or what we do here, so hopefully it will raise awareness and bring funding opportunities to us,” she said.
“It will also hopefully ensure that other families who may need to use bear cottage know about us and will be happy to use us in the future.”
Bear Cottage relies on corporate and community support to raise over $3.2 million required to operate each year.
On hand are nursing staff as well as a play therapists who uses music and art therapy to help children get the most from their time at the centre.
Ms Martin said it would be a thrill to welcome Prince William and Princess Kate to the cottage.
“I’m very excited because they seem like a lovely young couple that’s fairly down to earth and relaxed,” she said.
The Down Under tour is the Duchess’s first official visit to Australia, and follows Prince William’s last official visit in March 2011 to Queensland and Victoria.