Princess Diana was always known as the People’s Princess. Thanks to her loving and charitable nature, she raised millions of pounds for worthy causes and inspired others to support philanthropic organisations.
In fact, the UK Institute of Charity Fundraising Managers director Stephen Lee described Diana’s overall effect during the 20th century as, “probably more significant than any other person’s” in raising the profile of charitable organisations.
Queen of hearts
The Princess of Wales, who tragically lost her life aged just 36 following a car accident in 1997, once said that she wished to be a, “queen in the hearts of the people” and she certainly succeeded.
She was among the first high-profile people to actively support charities for people who had AIDS. Photographs in 1989 of Diana hugging a child with AIDS during her visit to Harlem and of her shaking hands with adults who had AIDS in 1991 had a significant effect, as it actively changed people’s attitudes towards the syndrome.
Her refreshing attitude was seen as a break from Royal protocol. She told the media that people who had AIDS were not dangerous to know, adding, “You can shake their hands and give them a hug.”
During her marriage to Prince Charles, she supported numerous charities including fighting against the use of landmines. She was president of vulnerable children’s charity Barnardos, patron of the British Red Cross, patron of the brain injury support group Headway, president of Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital and she made regular visits to Royal Brompton Hospital, where she comforted seriously and terminally ill patients.
She also supported charities that helped people with cerebral palsy, leprosy, cancer, meningitis, Parkinson’s disease and many more. She was at ease meeting people from any background, even when they were seriously ill in hospital or a hospice. Her friendliness put other people at ease too, as they felt she empathised with them in a genuine way.
Diana’s support for people with cerebral palsy was legendary, leading to her being awarded United Cerebral Palsy of New York’s Humanitarian of the Year award in 1995. The Princess of Wales joined a roll of honour of previous recipients, who included former US presidents and New York governors.
The princess accepted her award at a charity dinner attended by 2,000 guests, which raised a record $2.1 million for the cerebral palsy charity. Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, a former recipient of the humanitarian award, presented Princess Diana with her award.
She was humble in her acceptance speech, praising everyone who helped people with cerebral palsy to enjoy a high-quality of life. The princess was known to make secret incognito visits to hospitals to visit patients and spend time with them.
In 1995, she officially opened the National Institute of Conductive Education in Edgbaston – a specialist school. Her young guide, 10-year-old Laurence Chambers, had cerebral palsy. He asked Diana for a hug. Again, breaking Royal protocol, the caring princess lifted him from the floor and hugged him tight.
The school helps children and adults who have cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease to go into mainstream education.
In October 1996, the princess was awarded the humanitarian gold medal for her work to support elderly people from the Pio Manzu Centre – an organisation that liaised with the United Nations to enhance awareness of scientific and economic issues.
Diana’s legacy lives on after her death, with the annual Princess Diana Award for courage and kindness. Campaigning to get as much help as possible for other children who have the condition, this was awarded to 9-year old Mia Thorne who has cerebral palsy. She is an ambassador for a charity that supports children who have a disability, Caudwell Children, as well as being an active fundraiser.
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