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The Duke of Cambridge attends the Winter Whites Gala in aid of Centrepoint

8th December 2012

The Duke of Cambridge at the Winter Whites Gala

The Duke of Cambridge poses with guests from the homeless charity Centrepoint, at the Winter Whites Gala

The Duke of Cambridge attended the Winter Whites Gala in aid of homeless charity Centrepoint tonight, of which he is patron.

As he chatted to guests at London's Royal Albert Hall for his first public engagement since it was announced he is to become a father, the Duke was offered many congratulations on the happy news.

Former Centrepoint chairman Michael O'Higgens said he thought The Duke would make a great father, adding: "All I've seen of him is his amazing ability to relate to people and I think the care he's shown for his wife this week says a lot."

The Duke and chatted with sponsors, donors and young people who have been helped by the charity at a drinks reception ahead of a meal. His Royal Highness said it was a "great pleasure" to be at the charity event as he later gave a speech.

He told guests that some of the "most inspiring moments of my life" had been with the young people of Centrepoint. Referring to the night he spent on the streets in 2009 to experience what it is like sleeping rough, he said: "Of course, this was just one night.

"I was cold but safe, and I knew I had a home waiting for me. "Many others have no such luck. The cold streets are the only reality they know.

"And yet so often their spirit shines through. "What these unfortunate men, women and young people could achieve given the right opportunities is limitless. I really believe that."

He said that afterwards he and Centrepoint chief executive Seyi Obakin had decided to set a goal to eradicate homelessness in the next 10 years.

He added: "We are now several years into that decade and the problem remains as acute as ever.

Centrepoint hasn't given up on that ideal.

"These deserving young people haven't given up."

Guests were also treated to a tennis match between former British number one Tim Henman and Croatian Goran Ivanisevic.

The game was won by Henman, with showman Ivanisevic keeping spectators entertained by clowning around throughout the match.

The Duke sat in between Centrepoint trustee Danielle Alexandra, who organised the evening, and Mr Obakin.

The event ended with The Duke presenting the Centrepoint Great Britain Youth Inspiration Award to Novak Djokovic.

The world number one, who is a Unicef ambassador, was recognised for his humanitarian work to raise awareness of the importance of early childhood education in his home country of Serbia.

The Albert Hall was turned into a winter wonderland for the event, with guests including tennis aces John McEnroe, Boris Becker, Pat Cash and Heather Watson blasted with fake snow as they arrived.

Inside they were greeted by actors dressed in costumes with a Dr Zhivago theme.

Earlier His Royal Highness chatted to Henman and Djokovic at the drinks reception.

Henman said it was the first time he had met The Duke. "William seemed in good spirits," he said.

Djokovic also said it was "great" to meet The Duke "I feel very privileged to be surrounded by so many great people," he added.

His Royal Highness laughed in disbelief as he spoke to some guests who had travelled all the way from the US to attend the night.

Dr Natalie Monticciolo, from Tampa, Florida, was with other charity workers from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She said: "He joked, 'Which one of you has come the furthest?'. It was magical to meet him. He thanked us for coming.

"We congratulated him (on Kate's pregnancy) and he said thank you."

Centrepoint works with hundreds of young people to help them tackle issues that can lead to homelessness. The Duke became the charity's patron in 2005.

A speech by The Duke of Cambridge at the Winter Whites Gala 2012

Published on 8th December 2012

Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen.‬‪ It is a great pleasure for me to be here tonight. I’m sure you will all agree, that was inspirational tennis.

Thank you Goran and Tim.

Good to see all those vodka shots at dinner didn't hold you back, Tim!

And what a year we’ve had being inspired by sport – inspired by young people and what they can achieve through sport, given the opportunity. We can all seek inspiration, too, from opportunities offered by the worlds of the Arts and Science - to which The Royal Albert Hall, this great building, is dedicated.

‬‪But, ladies and gentlemen, I can tell you that some of the most inspiring moments of my life have been with young people who have had no such opportunities; the young people of Centrepoint.‬‪

About this time a few years ago, for one night, I gave up the warmth and comfort of my bed, and tried sleeping on the streets of London.

Of course, this was just one night: I was cold but safe, and I knew I had a home waiting for me.

Many others have no such luck.

The cold streets are the only reality they know.

And yet so often their spirit shines through. What these unfortunate men, women and young people could achieve given the right opportunities is limitless. I really really believe that. ‬‪‬‪

After that night, the Chief Executive of Centrepoint, Seyi Obakin, and I decided that Centrepoint should set itself a goal: to eradicate homelessness in the next ten years. We are now several years into that decade and the problem remains as acute as ever.

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