William and Kate woo Vancouver: Royal couple’s tour includes meeting with moms battling addiction

VANCOUVER — Three-month-old Jasmine came closer to the royals than almost anybody in Vancouver when the Duke of Cambridge shook her hand Sunday morning.

William and Kate met the tiny baby as she was being weighed at the pregnancy outreach program in the Downtown Eastside, under the watchful eye of mother Cameo Hydrochuk.

“They talked to us just like I was a normal person. I didn’t feel stereotyped or anything. They were amazing,” Hydrochuk said of the interaction.

The royal visit meant a lot to all the mothers who got a to interact with the duke and duchess, and they described the visit as an important one for the Sheway program, which helps mothers struggling with drugs and alcohol.

Jonathan Hayward / The Canadian Press
Jonathan / Britain's Prince William tickles a baby as his wife Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, left, looks on during a tour of Sheway, a center that provides support for native women, in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016.

“It just brings more awareness to it. Just getting out there and seeing that it’s not a hush-hush thing — we don’t sweep it under the rug,” said Jaimie Poulin, who met the royal couple along with her two daughters.

The Downtown Eastside was the place to be for royal watchers interested in getting a close look. Unlike in Jack Poole Plaza, where a crowd of hundreds awaited the royal couple’s arrival by float plane from Victoria, it was easy to get a front-row spot in front of Sheway.

Arthur Edwards - Pool/Getty Images
Arthur Edwards – Pool/Getty ImagesCatherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge are given teddy bears by a young girl during a visit to Sheway, a charity that helps vulnerable mothers battling issues such as addiction, during their Royal Tour of Canada on September 25, 2016 in Vancouver.

“Most time when you come to these events, people use binoculars,” Syd Benjamin said from her position just behind a velvet rope. “We’re very lucky.”

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge began charming Vancouverites the moment they touched down in Coal Harbour, where they were greeted by a rapturous welcome despite the grey, drizzly weather.

“She looks like a painting,” exclaimed Natasha Cadieux of the duchess, radiant in a red and white Alexander McQueen dress.

Sisters Jennifer Foik and Rebecca Horch and their mother, Allison Kenis, arrived at the plaza at 6:30 a.m. to get a prime spot hoping for a glimpse of the magnetic couple.

“They’re not celebrities,” said Kenis earlier in the day. “They’re royalty. It’s different. They’re a family that has been through tough times like everyone else and held it together.”

A pregnant Kenis had lined up six hours to see Diana, the Princess of Wales, in Victoria in 1986. “I made a mistake. She reached to shake my hand and I took a photo instead.” Kenis remains haunted by the faux pas and hoped for redemption this time around. “I’m going to be more attentive and not worry about taking photographs.”

Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP
Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via APBritain's Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, left, and Prince William arrive in Vancouver for planned events on Sunday, Sept. 25.

The royal couple later toured the Services Society of B.C.’s new Welcome Centre in Vancouver, where they met Trudeau and his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau.

At each stop, people gathered behind barricades to catch a glimpse of the couple, hand them flowers or perhaps get the chance to say hello.

and Chris Kiner arrived on the grounds of the B.C. legislature at 4:30 a.m. on Saturday for the official royal arrival more than 12 hours later and made their way home to Vancouver on Sunday to see them again.

They called the trip their “William and Kate chase weekend.” The Kiners gave Kate flowers on Saturday and shook Prince William’s hand on Sunday.

JONATHAN HAYWARD/AFP/Getty Images
JONATHAN HAYWARD/AFP/Getty Images(L-R) Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Prince William the Duke of Cambridge, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, and Catherine the Duchess of Cambridge take a walk at the Kitsilano Coast Guard station, in Vancouver, on September 25, 2016.

“It’s a once in a lifetime ,” said Elissa, who plans to watch the rest of the tour on television.

While the royal couple arrived to cheers at every stop, at least one person wasn’t a fan, carrying a sign that read, “No Kings. No Landlords.”

William and Kate travelled Sunday without their children, three-year-old Prince George and Princess Charlotte, who is one.

They were dressed semi-formally for their visit to Vancouver, with William a blazer, tie and dark pants. Kate was a red-and-white patterned dress by the late British designer Alexander McQueen, with her hair down, red shoes and a red purse.

(Chris Wattie/The Canadian Press via AP
(Chris Wattie/The Canadian Press via APBritain's Prince William, left, and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, second left, and Catherine meet with a family from Syria during a visit to the Immigrant Services Society in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016.

William and Kate also hosted a reception for young Canadians making important contributions to their communities, including Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

A member of Canada’s women’s rugby team asked the prince about his experiences playing the sport.

“Yes, I did play rugby. I wasn’t, obviously, as good as you guys,” William said, drawing laughs. “I tried my best.”

After the event, 20-year-old swimmer Aurelie Rivard admitted she and her fellow athletes were nervous and excited to meet the prince and prime minister.

Andrew Milligan - Pool/Getty Images
Andrew Milligan – Pool/Getty ImagesCatherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and wife children play in a sand pit during a visit to the Immigrant Services Society of British Columbia New Welcome Centre in during their Royal Tour of Canada on September 25, 2016 in Vancouver.

“We all had moist hands,” said Rivard, who won three gold medals and was the flag-bearer for the closing ceremony at the 2016 Paralympic Games.

Rivard said Prince William asked about her experience at the Games.

“It’s still hard to realize what happened. He’s super nice. We just chatted with him for a little bit. He seems interested in what he does and what we do as well.”

The royals ended the day at the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station, which they left on board a hovercraft.

Andrew Milligan - Pool/Getty Images
Andrew Milligan – Pool/Getty ImagesCatherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and wife Sophie Trudeau watch children play in a sand pit during a visit to the Immigrant Services Society of British Columbia New Welcome Centre in during their Royal Tour of Canada on September 25, 2016 in Vancouver.

Prince William is a helicopter pilot with East Anglian Air Ambulance and recently spoke about “dark moments”‘ in his job for a documentary that was made for National Air Ambulance Week in the U.K.

The royal couple met with representatives of the Canadian Coast Guard, B.C. Ambulance and other emergency officials, discussing the mental health issues faced by first responders. The duke, referring to mental health issues arising from rescues, said: “I’m so glad your services take it so seriously.”

Prince William admired the equipment displayed by Vancouver Fire and Rescue and North Shore Rescue. Pointing at a new truck, he remarked: “My son George would be obsessed with that.”

JONATHAN HAYWARD / CP
JONATHAN HAYWARD / CPBritain's Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, left, receives flowers from a little girl as her husband Prince William, background left, looks on, during a visit to the Immigration Services Society in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Sept 25, 2016.
RICHARD LAM /Postmedia News
RICHARD LAM /Postmedia NewsTina Coligado reacts after getting a hug from Prince William, Duke of Cambridge in Vancouver, BC, September, 25, 2016.
DON MACKINNON / AFP-Getty Images
DON MACKINNON / AFP-Getty ImagesFans cheer as Prince William the Duke of Cambridge, stops to visit them duing a tour of the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station for a first responders showcase in Vancouver, British Columbia on September 25, 2016.
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