It doesn’t get any grander than being invited to a royal garden party at Buckingham Palace!
But that’s just what happened when staff and customers from Riverside’s Hardwick House in Teesside, Mike Jackson House in Hampshire and The Beacon in North Yorkshire were invited to the royal appointment last month.
The noble affair was hosted by Prince Harry and organised by the Not Forgotten Association. It’s an annual event held at Buckingham Palace in honour of ex-servicemen and women from the Armed Forces.
This was the first time that Prince Harry hosted the event on behalf of the Queen. Around 2,500 veterans gathered together and mixed with celebrities, making it a memorable occasion.
Among the showbiz guests were Esther Rantzen, Christopher Stead, Stephen Webb, Fatima Whitbread, Richard Arnold, Michelle Collins and Pam St Clement.
“I thoroughly enjoyed this experience, I enjoyed meeting other veterans and listening to their stories. It was amazing to see the palace up close, recalls Martyn Laidlaw, a customer at Hardwick House.
He added: “I had concerns about wearing my medals on the way to London, but I felt nothing but pride when wearing these in the palace. I enjoyed seeing and liaising with the Beefeaters. I found this a truly unique experience.”
Callum Brannen, a customer at Hardwick House, also enjoyed the once-in-a-lifetime experience. He said: “I could not take it all in. I enjoy experiencing things I would not normally do, such as visiting the palace and the amazing gardens, and getting an insight in to all the different details and the royals’ lifestyle.
“I found the day brilliant and felt proud to be a veteran. It was one of the best days of my life, and the experience has spurred me to make positive changes to my life.”
Sheryl Bartliff, Service Manager at The Beacon, organised Riverside’s attendance on the day. She added: “We can’t thank The Not Forgotten Association enough as they invite us every year to attend this prestigious event. I would also like to thank Church Housing Trust who fund the travel expenses every year for us to attend.
“It’s a privilege to be invited and experience the grandeur when entering the palace, walking through to the gardens, meeting the royals and other VIP’s and on leaving the palace due to the amount of tourists wanting your picture!”
The royal garden party was a truly unique experience for Kelly Major, Support Worker at Hardwick House. “This was overall a truly memorable day which made me feel privileged to be supporting veterans and to be a part of Riverside Care and Support,” she rejoiced.
Riverside provides a network of services to veterans’ facing homelessness through housing, support and training work. You can find out more here.