British Columbia

British Columbians eager to meet Royal Family

Families are playing a critical role in the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's visit across British Columbia and Yukon.

Royal Family expected to meet with hundreds of British Columbians during 8-day tour

Ann Auld (left) and her daughter Zola have been invited to meet with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Oct. 1 in Victoria. (Provided by Ann Auld)

Ann Auld said she needs to go shopping for some new clothes.

The Victoria mother has been invited, alongside her daughter Zola, to meet with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge next Saturday in Victoria at the Cridge Centre for the Family.

"I am still trying to figure out the Buckingham Palace dictum that we are supposed to wear something called 'smart casual,' which means I can't wear a dress and skirt and I don't really own any pants," said Auld.

Ann and Zola are two of the hundreds of British Columbians who have been invited to be in the same room as Prince William and Duchess Catherine while the couple travels across British Columbia and Yukon from Sept. 24 to Oct 1.

That visit includes stops in Victoria, Vancouver, Bella Bella, Kelowna, White Horse, Carcross and Haida Gwaii.

Acknowledging 'overcomers'

Zola (left) sits with her mom, Ann Auld. Ann has to go shopping to get the pair 'smart casual' outfits for visit with Royal couple. (Robyn Burns/CBC)

The Auld's were invited because they take part in the Cridge's Respitality program, which gives Auld a free night in a hotel once a year and a break from the challenges associated with taking care of her 19 year old daughter with down syndrome.

One of the main themes of the Royal visit to Canada is recognizing 'overcomers' — people who have overcome difficulty —  which is why the Cridge Centre in Victoria was selected as one of a handful of places the royal couple will visit.

The chance to meet Will and Kate next Saturday holds extra significance for Zola. Her birthday is this Sept. 24, exactly a week before the royal meet-and-greet is planned.

"The chance for us to interact with the royals, even for just a couple of minutes, is a real gift for us, a real treat," said Auld.

"It is for us a chance to say thank you for supporting families who do face, you know, huge barriers sometimes. So I am just feeling extremely honoured, it feels a little surreal."

Dressing like a princess

For Andrea Callaghan, the shopping is done.

She has picked out a light blue 'princess dress' for her three-year-old daughter Brielle. The family is one of a select few who have been invited to attend a kid's party at Government House where Prince George and Princess Charlotte are expected to be in attendance.

"In all honesty Brielle has no concept of who they are. We have been practicing her manners and making sure she uses them," said Callaghan. "She is kind of taking it all in stride and knows she gets to wear a beautiful dress and she is going to make some new friends is how she is looking at it."

Brielle Kenward has been invited to a party at Government House on September 29 where Prince George and Princes Charlotte are expected to attend. (Provided by Andrea Callaghan)

Brielle gets to attend because as her mom puts it, "she picked up the phone" at the right time. But more importantly, it's because of their involvement in the Military Families Resource Centre and Brielle's father Lucas Kenward's job in the Canadian Navy based at CFB Esquimalt.

"Military kids, they really struggle. Their parents are away, they don't always understand it. Emotionally, mentally, it takes a toll on them," said Callaghan.

"To be honest it makes me a bit emotional to think about the fact the royals are taking the time to acknowledge the kids."

The play date is set to last about an hour on the grounds of Government House and is expected to be packed with local entertainers including musicians and a puppeteer.

But emotion aside, Callaghan wants to keep next Thursday's visit in perspective. 

"Right or wrong I try to think of this as parents just arranging a play date while they are on the road," she added.