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Harry shares balloon jokes with WellChild Awards winners

The Duke of Sussex shared a series of light-hearted jokes involving balloons as he met WellChild Awards winners.

Harry, making his first appearance in the UK since June, cut a relaxed figure as he sat with seriously ill children and their families during a pre-ceremony reception at The Hurlingham Club in south-west London on Thursday.

He spoke with them about their interests and hobbies and had several interactions with their accompanying balloons, which were shaped as different animals.

The Duke of Sussex speaking to George Hall and his mother
The Duke of Sussex met 11-year-old George Hall, from Skipton, North Yorkshire, who was receiving an Inspirational Young Person award (Yui Mok/PA)

It was the first time the royal had been seen in the UK since his high-profile legal case at the High Court against Mirror Group Newspapers earlier in the year.

The event was also being staged on the eve of the first anniversary of the death of his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II.

Harry, a WellChild patron for 15 years, sat down with each young award winner in turn before chatting to adult winners at the reception, which lasted just under an hour.

The duke fist-bumped two of the boys receiving Inspirational Young Person awards – George Hall, 11, from Skipton, North Yorkshire, and Blake McCaughey, 15, from Tandragee in County Armagh.

WellChild Awards 2023 – London
Harry was given an ice hockey shirt by award-winner Blake McCaughey from County Armagh (Yui Mok/PA)

Blake and his family gifted Harry a green Belfast Giants ice hockey shirt, personalised with the duke’s name on the back.

The pair then talked about Blake’s tiger balloon, and Harry asked him “Do you want to take this home with you?” to which the teenager shook his head.

Another award winner, seven-year-old Poppy Higham, from Runcorn, danced to music by Ed Sheeran in front of Harry, to which he gave warm applause.

The duke then played around with a giraffe balloon and showed Poppy its rotating head, prompting the youngster to pick it up and play with it.

The Duke of Sussex watches award-winner Poppy dancing
The Duke of Sussex was entertained by seven-year-old Poppy Higham, from Runcorn, who danced to music by Ed Sheeran (Yui Mok/PA)

Poppy, who cares for her 17-year-old sister Paige, told the PA news agency she enjoyed speaking to Harry about “my dancing, Disney and the awards”.

Her father, Daniel Higham, said: “We’re so proud of it (the award) – it’s amazing.

“She just makes our life a lot easier sometimes when it’s not going right, she just gets on with it.

“I think she just takes it in her stride.”

WellChild Awards 2023 – London
Harry also met Hayley Cassin, from Rotherham, winner of the Inspirational Young Person aged 12-14 category (Yui Mok/PA)

He had earlier shown the same feature to Hayley Cassin, from Rotherham, winner of the Inspirational Young Person aged 12-14 category.

Noting that each winner’s balloon represented a different animal, Harry asked: “Is the theme Madagascar?”

The duke was due to present the award for Inspirational Young Person aged four to six and deliver a speech.

A host of famous faces, including former Olympic swimmer Mark Foster and TV presenter Charlotte Hawkins, were also attending the event.