Sophie Rhys-Jones

Royal visit recalls foundation’s royal roots

Countess of Wessex to get personal tour of Jeneece Place with namesake, foundation CEO

Jeneece Place will receive a royal visit from Countess Sophie Rhys-Jones, wife of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, this Saturday (Sept. 13).

“Our roots actually go back to royalty,” said Linda Hughes, CEO of the Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island.

“One of the donations that came to support the solarium in Mill Bay for crippled children (the original facility) was from the Royal Family. That’s our history.”

The Countess of Wessex and Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon, the Queen’s representative in B.C., will tour the 10-bedroom home on the Victoria General Hospital property with Hughes and Jeneece Edroff, the ‘Penny Girl’ who raised over $1.5 million through her penny drives to help B.C. children, and worked to see Jeneece Place realized.

The Countess will have the chance to view common areas of the home, speak to longtime volunteers in the kitchen and meet several families who have stayed at Jeneece Place.

The visit is a great honour, Hughes said.

“We’re just thrilled that we were chosen. I do believe the Earl and Countess have a particular interest in children and children’s health, and Jeneece Place has such a wonderful history. It’s quite exciting.”

The Countess and lieutenant governor arrive at 10:30 a.m. for the private tour of the home.

The Children’s Health Foundation, formerly the Queen Alexandra Foundation, has been helping children on the Island since 1927. It owns and operates Jeneece Place, a home for families to stay when they’ve had to travel to Victoria for children’s medical reasons.

“I can’t even imagine what a family must go through,” Hughes said of the trauma of a pediatric emergency. “Whether it’s a premature birth or even a car accident, the first thought is to go to the hospital. You don’t think of anything after that.”

Families have enough on their plates to worry about without trying to find a hotel room, she said, not to mention the financial strain.

“Some of our families couldn’t afford to stay somewhere, even if they had the presence of mind to arrange it.”

Jeneece Place opened in January 2012 and served almost 700 families in its first two years of operations.

Many families are return guests, as children have to come back to Victoria General for followups or continued treatment, and the need continues to grow.

“This summer we’re experiencing the highest occupancy,” said communications officer Jessica Woollard.

For more information about Jeneece Place or the Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island, visit childrenshealthvi.org.

acowan@goldstreamgazette.com