The Duke of Sussex was named as Global Ambassador for Scotty's Little Soldiers that helps young children who've lost an armed forces parent
Prince Harry is being praised for how he supports young people who’ve lost an armed forces parent.
On the eve of the weekend when Britain remembers its fallen and injured, army veteran the Duke of Sussex, 39, has been named as global ambassador for a charity that helps provide emotional support for youngsters.
Scotty’s Little Soldiers was set up in 2010 by Nikki Scott, whose husband Corp. Lee Scott died when he was on a tour of Afghanistan in 2009.
Nikki Scott will lead a march of 48 proud young people in London on Sunday when the royal family, veterans, service personnel and politicians gather to honor the fallen.
Prince Harry, whose mother Princess Diana died when he was 12, has been a supporter since 2017 after first meeting them at an event at Buckingham Palace. Since then, he has written to bereaved families or taken part in video calls.
"It is such a positive thing for us. The fact that [Harry] was bereaved as a child and served in the military, the young people we support really resonate with him," says Scott.
"He just really gets it, and you can feel the passion coming through when he talks and writes to us. He is so willing to help and so engaged,” she adds.
At the time of Lee's death, he and Nikki shared two young children: Kai, 5, and Brooke, 7 months. The deep sadness of losing their father inspired Nikki to create a supportive charity for children who were bereaved.
This week, as Prince Harry was announced as a global ambassador to the charity, he wrote to the members. "During what may be a particularly difficult time for you and your family, know that I am thinking of you and hoping for your Remembrance weekend to be filled with comfort, support, and shared understanding with your fellow Scotty's members,” Harry said.
"Grief is nothing to be ashamed of; it's normal to feel sadness from loss. But don't forget that you also deserve to feel happiness — your parent would want that, trust me," he said.
Nikki Scott tells PEOPLE how the Duke of Sussex's involvement helps: “To know that someone like Prince Harry is behind us and supporting us makes you feel and that people are listening – and he is going to help to get more people to listen and get our message across."
Scotty’s Little Soldiers currently supports over 650 members and services offered include access to child bereavement support, guidance to parents and carers, personal education, learning assistance such as grants and activities such as holiday respite breaks and group events.
On Sunday, 48 children between the ages of 8 and 22 will wear their distinctive yellow and black scarves and march to the war memorial, or Cenotaph, in central London in a section of the parade reserved for war widows.
“It is such an emotional time, and bereaved families are really sensitive at this time of year,” Scott tells PEOPLE. “For us to come together as a community and walk passed the Cenotaph, you get this overwhelming feeling of pride. We are all there to remember our loved ones. The veterans and public are just incredible with the children and that gives them a real boost at a tough time of year.”
The youngest of those marching on Sunday is Isabelle Bovington, 8, who was almost 1 when her father, Leading Naval Nurse Thomas Bovington, died very suddenly of a genetic heart condition. Isabelle and her sister, 9-year-old Elizabeth, are helped to keep smiling by Scotty’s.
"When I think of Scotty’s, I feel excited and happy. Especially when I think about Scotty’s Christmas parties," Isabelle says. "I was very little at my first Scotty’s Christmas party so don’t remember very much, but Mum says I made friends with a polar bear statue and kept putting snow on his head.”
She adds, “Remembrance is really important so we can remember people from the military like Daddy."
While she is marching this year, she spent last year with her grandparents: "I looked for Mummy and Elizabeth as they were in the parade with Scotty’s, but they were too far away. It was like 'Where’s Wally?' Elizabeth told me about it, and it sounds really exciting."
"I’ll be thinking about Daddy and wearing my big black and yellow scarf so people know I’m part of Scotty’s," she says.
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Another youngster, Austen Hargreaves, 13, was just 7 when his dad, Sgt. Christopher Hargreaves, died by suicide.
He says the service’s “two-minute silence is always very emotional. I usually cry. It’s a moment to really think about everything, think about everyone who has put their life on the line for us and think about everyone we’ve lost.”
Austen adds in a statement, “We like to remember him through stories and discussing with our mum what he was like. I know he was amazing and always so warm and welcoming to everyone he met. He loved spending time with us whenever he was home and really hardworking whenever he wasn’t. My favorite thing in the world is every time people say I remind them of my dad.”
The occasion also “helps me feel a military connection I wouldn’t otherwise have and inspires me to learn more about that side of my dad’s life. I remember my dad as my dad, not the man he was in the Army, but it is something I’m really interested in and I think it’s important I understand what that part of his life was like. Remembrance being with Scotty’s is always great and I love everyone there. Whatever we do – whether it’s something serious or something fun – it’s just amazing to be surrounded by people you know love you and understand you.”
Prince Harry's involvement with Scotty's Little Soldiers comes during a week he and his wife, Meghan Markle, took part in a few events honoring veterans. After spending Wednesday morning with veterans and active duty service members and their loved ones at Camp Pendleton, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex visited the grand opening of the Navy SEAL Foundation’s Warrior Fitness Program West Coast facility in San Diego, a few hours' drive south of their home in Montecito, California.
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