Her Highness the Countess of Wessex

Countess thrills youngster at Jeneece Place

Sophie Rhys-Jones teams up with young patient for foosball game

The sun was shining and the weather co-operated beautifully to welcome a royal visitor to Jeneece Place as part of a tour across Canada.

Jeneece Edroff and Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island CEO Linda Hughes were on hand to greet Her Royal Highness, Sophie Rhys-Jones, Countess of Wessex, and lead her through a tour of the 10-bedroom facility on Saturday.

As the Countess walked around, touring a bedroom, the large volunteer-run kitchen, games room and other common areas, she was impressed by the house’s inclusiveness for its families.

“It feels very comfortable for all levels and all ages,” she said, noting that facilities like Jeneece Place “make all the difference in the world” to parents and families undergoing medical challenges.

As the tour moved downstairs, the Countess had the chance to meet nine-year-old Abigail McCorquodale and her parents, Doug and Brenda, from Port Hardy.

“I was born without a piece of my esophagus, so it closes off sometimes,” said Abigail, explaining why she has stayed at Jeneece Place in the past. “I have to get surgery to open it up.”

The Countess chatted with the McCorquodales, inquiring about their other children and about their experiences at Jeneece Place.

“Jeneece Place didn’t exist when Abigail was born,” said Brenda, and called it a “Godsend” to have a comfortable and welcoming place to stay when Abigail is in hospital. “It just touches your heart that there are places like this out there.”

The Countess and Abigail then took their places across the foosball table to challenge Abigail’s parents to a rousing game. All had looks of intense concentration as the rubber ball bounced back and forth, but the royal side prevailed, winning the game 5-2 and celebrating with a friendly squeeze.

Abigail blushed, her grin stretching across her face as the Countess thanked her with a smile and said goodbye. Abigail was still beaming as she returned to stand with her parents. What did she think of playing foosball with royalty?

“It was really exciting!”

The Countess and her husband, Prince Edward, toured B.C. from Sept. 12 to 16, visiting Victoria, Vancouver and Kelowna, as well as the Ditidaht and ‘Namgis First Nations on the Island. From the west coast, Prince Edward travels to Saskatchewan from Sept. 17 to 19, while the Countess heads to northern Ontario.

acowan@goldstreamgazette.com