Her Majesty the Queen hosts royal reception at St James’s Palace

30 May 2014

  • More than 180 guests joined Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at the palace, including Professor Stephen Hawking, Fiona Phillips, Esther Rantzen, James Beattie and Dame Mary Peters.
  • The Queen has been patron of the Leonard Cheshire Disability since 1980.

Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh hosted a reception yesterday at St James’s Palace for Leonard Cheshire Disability.

The event celebrated our work towards a world where every person is equally valued. Our charity, founded by Leonard Cheshire in 1948, has supported disabled people around the world to get an education, start enterprises and campaign for change.

During the reception, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh greeted and welcomed the guests. The lucky attendees included a 90-year-old volunteer who had dedicated 50 years of her life to help others, a former RAF reservist who chose to live in a care home run by the charity, and passionate disability campaigners from the UK and overseas. 

A single act of kindness

Clare Pelham, chief executive of Leonard Cheshire Disability, told guests at the reception: ‘Nearly 70 years ago we started our journey in a very different world. And now we have much to celebrate. It’s a measure of how far we’ve come that it is almost impossible to imagine the world as it used to be.  

‘A world where disabled people were often shut away, and their potential unrealised and all that they had to offer, wasted. And our society was the poorer for it. Our founder, Leonard Cheshire, was a truly extraordinary man who started our charity with a single act of kindness when he took someone into his own home to care for him. From the very first day and the very first act of kindness we began to change the world and support disabled people to live their daily lives to the full.

‘We are here to finish what was started all those years ago. Because we can’t go on as we are. None of us in our hearts believes we have equality yet or anything like it. And the real danger is that if we can’t push forward, we will slip back.’

‘I couldn’t stop smiling’

Charlotte Morrell meeting Her Majesty the QueenLeonard Cheshire team leader Charlotte Morrell has provided care and support to a group of disabled people living at one of the charity’s care homes in West Sussex for more than 11 years. ‘I was absolutely amazed to receive my invitation. It felt great to be recognised for my work and it has made me feel so valued,’ said the 33-year-old. ‘I couldn’t stop smiling when I met the Queen, it was so surreal. The Duke of Edinburgh was incredibly friendly and we even shared a joke together.’

Mark Jackson, former RAF No.617 ‘Dambusters’ Squadron Leader, has been involved with Leonard Cheshire since we were chosen to be the squadron’s official charity in 2013. The partnership was created in honour of Group Captain Leonard Cheshire who led No. 617 squadron for eight months during World War Two and was awarded the Victoria Cross. 

Mark Jackson and Alan Murray meeting Her Majesty the Queen‘It was an incredible and humbling experience to go to the palace and meet Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. I was blown away by the number of campaigners from around the world, supported by the charity, who were at the reception. We are looking forward to building on the fantastic relationship that the RAF No. 617 squadron already has with Leonard Cheshire as it is an incredible charity.’ — Mark Jackson

‘My heart skipped a beat’

Veronica Thomas handing Her Majesty the Queen a bouquetVeronica Thomas has been going to Randall Close Day Centre, one of the Leonard Cheshire services in Wandsworth, for 20 years. The 67-year-old was thrilled to be invited and have a significant role on the day by presenting the Queen with a bouquet of flowers. She said: ‘It was such an honour to meet the Queen and give her the flowers. She had a wonderful smile and a really good sense of humour. It was such a privilege to meet her in the flesh and my heart skipped a beat when she was talking to me.’

Yellamma Gangadhar meeting Her Majesty the QueenYellamma Gangadhar was born in India. When she was seven she contracted polio and as a result, lost the use of her legs. Aged ten, her parents abandoned her at a bus station, despite waiting for them, they never came back. A kind shopkeeper helped her with food and eventually she found the Bangalore Cheshire Home, and was supported by Leonard Cheshire through her education and training and to find a job. 

The 33-year-old is a member of Young Voices, a project run by Leonard Cheshire that supports young disabled people to campaign about issues that matter to them.

‘When I met the Queen I felt very excited. I would like to take this opportunity to thank people all over the world for supporting Leonard Cheshire Disability — it is such a fantastic charity that has transformed the lives of disabled people.’ — Yellamma Gangadhar

Martin Wintermeyer is a flying instructor with the RAF and an enthusiastic volunteer. He is responsible for a large project which involves renovating the walled garden at Alne Hall, a care home in York, into a sensory area for the residents to enjoy. He said: ‘It was an absolute pleasure and honour to represent the dedicated staff and wonderful volunteers at Alne Hall. 

‘The Queen expressed an interest in the garden project and is clearly a very interested and knowledgeable patron. It was delightful to complete the evening in the company of Leonard Cheshire’s children, Elizabeth and Jeromy, as well as former members of the RAF No.617 Squadron.’

Her Majesty the Queen looking at photos from our history, with Clare Pelham and Lillian DickinsonLillian Dickinson, 90, has spent the last 50 years volunteering and is a much–loved regular at Randall Close resource centre. She was one of a select few people who met the Queen. She said: ‘It was a wonderful experience. The Duke of Edinburgh is such a character. When I met Her Majesty I told her she had been a good queen and that it was an honour to meet her.’

Dame Mary Peters, an Olympic gold medalist from 1972, was also at the reception. She was joined by high profile guests including Stephen Hawking, Fiona Phillips, Esther Rantzen, Cathy Newman and James Beattie, former England Player and current Accrington Stanley Football Club manager.

The Queen had a close connection with the charity’s founder and honoured his work during her Christmas message in 1992. She also offered Park House on the Sandringham Estate to the charity, which is now used as an award-winning hotel for disabled people. The special relationship with the charity has been passed down royal generations as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother visited Le Court, the first care home to be opened in 1948.

Media enquiries

For photos, interviews, archive material and media enquires contact Amy Burns:

Email: amy.burns@leonardcheshire.org.
Direct line: 020 3242 0313.
General press office number: 020 3242 0399.
Out-of-hours: 07903 949 388.

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