British Columbia

Downtown Eastside mother of four young children gets chance to meet Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

Vancouver mother Karen Leann Starr will be among those who greet Prince William and his wife Kate when they visit a healthcare and social services facility for pregnant women and mothers on the Downtown Eastside.

Healthcare and social services facility for pregnant women and mothers has been chosen for a royal visit

Karen Leann Starr hopes to thank royal couple for wanting to hear her story. (Belle Puri )

Vancouver mother Karen Leann Starr will be among those who greet Prince William, his wife Kate and their two children when they visit Sheway, a pregnancy outreach program on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Their Royal Highnesses, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, will visit the facility, September 25. 

"I'm feeling really excited, really nervous, and this is like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Starr.

"I will talk to them about Sheway and my addictions and my children." 

Vancouver Coastal Health manager Patti Zettel said Sheway first got a hint it may be in for a royal visit back in July, but confirmation came only last week. 

"We know the royal couple has a real affinity for issues affecting women, particularly women who are burdened with mental health and addiction issues," said Zettel.

"There's kind of a nice story. Twenty-five years ago, the precursor to Sheway was in Glasgow, Scotland, and when that program opened, it was lucky enough to have Princess Diana attend the royal opening.

"So, we've kind of had a full-circle moment 25 years later having Prince William and Kate grace Sheway with their presence."

Vancouver Coastal Health manager Patti Zettel first heard about a possible royal visit to Sheway in July. (Belle Puri)

Starr reached out to Sheway when she was 17 and pregnant with her first child. 

"I was lost, broken, hurt. I'd given up on life, and I felt like there was no reason to live, and if it wasn't for Sheway and its outreach, I wouldn't be here and being a mom for my kids," said Starr. 

"I'm two years clean of alcohol, heroin, crack, everything. I parent two of my children. I'm regaining custody of one soon, so I'll have three in my care." 

Starr's children are 10, eight, five and two years old. 

When Starr meets William and Kate, baby Vance and five-year-old Dalila will be with her. 

Starr told her daughter: "We're going to be sitting with the Prince and Princess."

"She kind of looked shocked. She's taking it in. I don't think she really believed me at first, but she's starting to now because I keep telling here every morning. We're counting down the days," said Starr. 

The royal visit at Sheway is expected to last about an hour.

Prince William and his wife, Kate, shown here in October 2015, will spend about an hour at Sheway, a pregnancy outreach program in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. (Chris Jeff/Associated Press )

About the Author

Belle Puri


Belle Puri is a veteran journalist who has won awards for her reporting in a variety of fields. Belle contributes to CBC Vancouver's Impact Team, where she investigates and reports on stories that impact people in their local community.