Jeff Evans, father of 2015 WellChild Award winner Nellie-Mai, writes about their evening at the ceremony and shares their experience meeting WellChild Patron the Duke of Sussex.
I think it’s difficult to understand, without having a family member who needs care, what a big deal a trip to London for the WellChild Awards ceremony was. A trip to London and staying in a very nice hotel. A hotel that hadn’t been selected simply because it was the most convenient for the next hospital appointment.
Natalie from WellChild was there to welcome us and point us in the direction of the receptionist. For the next 24 hours we never felt overlooked. Everyone there made it clear we were there to celebrate Nellie-Mai, and that her needs were paramount. For the first time in a long time, years, we felt at ease.
A few hours later Nellie and I were in a large room waiting with others to meet Prince Harry.
Child friendly snacks had been laid on, together with seemingly limitless cola. Nellie loved it! Lots of strangers came to say hello and chat with Nellie, all knew her story and were very nice. Every now and again an entertainer would come by. There was a magician who performed a trick for us, there was a juggler, a clown. There were more people introducing themselves. Finally, there was a balloon sculptor who made a wonderful horse out of several balloons and presented it to Nellie.
Nellie knew she would be meeting Prince Harry. She had been looking forward to this moment very much. Before we knew it, Prince Harry himself was walking towards us, hand outstretched saying “Well Hello Nellie Mai… I’ve heard a lot about you…”
Nellie was sitting cross legged on the floor banging her newly acquired ‘balloon horse’ on the knees of the Lord Mayor of the City of London who was chatting to her. With her free hand Nellie was supping from a bottle of coke. As I whispered to Nellie “Here we go, stand up.” Her balloon creature unravelled on impact with the man’s knee, back into three long balloons. She looked disappointed, but smoothed down her pretty dress, passed her half empty coke bottle to the Mayor and said “Can you take this for me please?”
“Of course I can Nellie” he said and I briefly watched the Lord Mayor attempting valiantly to keep a half empty bottle of coke upright in his jacket pocket before slinking off to locate a bin.
So, Nellie took Prince Harry’s outstretched hand. Realising she had an unravelled balloon horse in her spare hand her first words to him were: “Oh, hello. Are you a clown?”
Passing him the unravelled ‘horse’ she said: “Could you fix this for me?”
Thankfully Prince Harry was wonderful about it. He took Nellie’s balloons and started twisting them whilst chatting with us. Nellie only said one or two other embarrassing things, whilst continually looking around the Prince towards the entrance. Before he moved on, he handed Nellie her remade balloon horse! She was so happy!
“When is Prince Harry coming?” she said a few minutes later. “You’ve just met him sweetheart”… “No I haven’t – he didn’t have a crown!” she replied.
Written by Jeff Evans, father of 2015 WellChild Award winner Nellie-Mai