Saturday, 23 September 2023

Harry & Meghan's Evening on Kevin Costner's Estate for a Very Good Cause

One week after an unforgettable time in Germany for the Invictus Games, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were back on home turf for Santa Barbara's One805 charity fundraiser, supporting the First Responder community.

The event was hosted by Hollywood legend and Yellowstone star Kevin Costner at his oceanside estate in Summerland.

Santa Barbara is a relatively small community and in fact Harry and Meghan shared a love of Italian eatery Tre Lune with Costner, so I'm not at all surprised their paths crossed at some point and they were invited to the the annual charity event which has distributed over $1.6 million since its inception in 2018.

It was an event filled with familiar faces including Oprah, Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi. Last month, Meghan and Portia enjoyed a girls afternoon out with friends for a showing of summer blockbuster Barbie.

One805 was born after the Montecito Mudflow claimed the lives of 23 community members.

All Chiefs of the Santa Barbara County First Responder departments sit on the One805 Advisory Council, and are directly involved with the decisions of where funding is directed. This ensures that funds are quickly sent where they are most needed at any given time, regardless of the department.

One805 is the only organisation to support all three primary First Responder agencies in Santa Barbara County. One donation helps all three.

The organisation is also increasingly focused on supporting the mental health of first responders. One805 notes: "Many mental health conditions, including depression, substance use disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and even suicidal ideation, are more common among First Responders."

A teaser shared just before the Duke and Duchess arrived.

The Duchess with Father Larry Gosselin of Old Mission Santa Barbara. Afterwards, he shared photos on Facebook and wrote: "Attending the amazing gala of 'One 805 Live' concert fundraiser to support our local communities First Responders. Having the great privilege and joy of sharing time with Prince Harry and Duchess of Sussex Meghan, who are part our local community."

The Duke and Duchess were introduced as special guests before presenting Kevin with an award.

A video of the moment.

People reports:

'In the clip, Meghan, 42, clapped as Harry, 39, walked over to Kevin to hand him the award and shook his hand.

“Good afternoon everyone,” the actor then said to the crowd of attendees. “Now, I get asked a lot by my friends who have no manners, ‘Kev, what’s this place cost? What’s it worth?’ And I can just simply tell you on a day, like today, it’s worth every penny.”

“That you’ll be here to celebrate people you’ll never maybe meet,” the Yellowstone star continued. “The ones who are the first to rush in. And it's a place that I’ve had a lot of good luck in my life and I’ve tried to not throw up a wall around it, so thank you for coming.”

As Oprah appeared on stage, she was delighted to introduce Sam Dudley and his service dog Rhonda: "Sam, in addition to all the extraordinary things that One805 does, they have a counseling service where they counsel over 700 responders and this year alone prevented 24 suicides. Sam knows all too well how beneficiary one805 counseling services are."

Instagrammer Jules shared: "As the wife/family of a fire fighter in sb, we know intimately how important mental health access is. This program has saved us in really hard times. So thank you all for supporting your amazing fire fighters. We need them healthy."

Harry and Meghan posed for photos.

One might say the party was the chatter of Santa Barbara social media :)

The Duchess continued her streak of effortlessly chic autumnal ensembles, choosing a grey oversized Carolina Herrera cape.

Meghan accessorised with her gold Tabayer earrings.

And her Manolo Blahnik Camaprimesh pumps in black. The updated polka dot style is available here and here.

Saturday, 16 September 2023

Invictus Leaves a Lasting Legacy in Germany as the Games Come to a Close

All good things must come to an end, a phrase which certainly rang true at the Invictus Games 2023 Closing Ceremony in Dusseldorf tonight.

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I remember when, almost a decade ago, Prince Harry announced his vision for the Invictus Games. At the time, he had served in the British Army for eight years and completed his time as an Apache pilot. He knew exactly how he wanted to cement his role for good. After a life-changing trip to the US where he witnessed the inspiring Warrior Games. He returned to London with a plan. Nine years later, that plan has grown into "a legacy he can be proud of", as UK Minister of State for Veterans' Affairs in the UK put it.

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The games this year were undeniably one of the best to date and set a high bar for Canada in 2025.

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There was extraordinary cooperation in Germany and a fabulously professional approach. The Invictus Games Foundation, steered by Harry, Dominic Reed and David Wiseman, has reached a point where it's very much a smooth-running vessel with the ability to optimise and grow the games year on year.

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The Duke and Duchess with performers Rita Ora and Sam Ryder before the ceremony began.

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Applause from the Duke and Duchess during the parade of nations.

Meghan blew kisses.

Roaring cheers for Ukraine.

Dominic Reid, OBE Chief Executive, Meghan, Harry, Elke Büdenbender and German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

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The Invictus Games has been able to achieve something special and that was evident at every single event this week. It's a family.

Sam Ryder serenades Meghan.

In a rousing speech, German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier spoke directly to Team Ukraine: "This illegal war could be over today if Vladimir Putin withdrew his troops from Ukrainian soil. Together with Ukraine, we hope each day this war will end so that the dying and suffering are no more. Team Ukraine, all of us feel for you and hope you can take something from this special community of the unbeaten back with you."

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The President added: "I am very grateful to the Duke of Sussex, as someone who himself has been in combat, for creating the games."

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Let's take a look at some of the statistics: 513 competitors from 21 countries competed in 10 different sports across six days of competition. A total of 666 medals in 229 competitions were handed out.

Over 1,000 relatives of the participants made the journey. Over 1,200 volunteers made the event possible, coming from 30 countries. Over 800 journalists were accredited.

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21,800 soldiers from all participating countries attended the event. Over 14,000 school children from all over Europe visited. The goal of 100,000 spectators was smashed with over 140,000 in attendance. Over 25 million online visitors.

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The Merkur Spiel-Arena was converted into a multi-functional facility in a record eight days. 950 people worked 15,000 hours.

Though the Invictus Games will officially leave Germany tonight, it's legacy will remain. Thanks to the success of the games, Dusseldorf will follow the path of Sydney (2018 Games Host) and launch Invictus Germany. This continued programme will operate similarly to the Warrior Games, allowing German athletes to compete at a national level.

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The theme of 'A Home for Respect' will continue to flourish.

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The Lord Mayor of Dusseldorf, Stephan Keller, became quite emotional when speaking about the games: "We kept asking ourselves, how we can we keep this spirit going and leave a sustainable legacy of Invictus in Germany?"

Minister of Defence Boris Pistorius has been profoundly touched by the event, saying, "We have reached far beyond the military community with the impact of these games."

Looking ahead, 2024 marks the ten-year anniversary and at a press conference this evening it was confirmed a series of events and activities will mark the occasion. Of course, there was also enormous excitement as the 2025 Games in Vancouver and Whistler were discussed. With the inclusion of winter sports, the games will be around 12 days in duration. Speaking today, Canada's Minister of Veteran Affairs Ginette Petitpas Taylor said: "The games will present a challenge for competitors and make the first test in adaptive winter sports. I have no doubt that it's certainly going to be something to watch."

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A beautiful moment as Team Germany Captain Thomas Kroner handed over the team coin to Team Canada Captain Aliana Mundy. A symbol of respect to Canada as they take the mantle forward.

War heralds unimaginable cruelty and brutality. Division in all its worst forms. None feel this more deeply than the heroes of Team Ukraine. Seeing nations come together at Invictus, knowing the devastating situation the team are going home to, offers a time of respite and hope for a better future.

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Ontario's Senator Marty Deacon shared: "Councillor Wilson Williams of The Squamish Nation on behalf of Team Canada at the Invictus Games today did a blanket ceremony for a brave Ukrainian medic."

Taira stole all of our hearts over the past week. I am in awe of her courage, strength and dignity in the midst of circumstances most of will never understand.

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Last year, Taira couldn't take her place at the games as she was held in captivity. She credits the attention Invictus gave her story with being released: "When you prepare yourself for death and then you get out of those horrible cells and then you see all this, it's like a true rebirth." When Invictus was merely a seed in Harry's mind, I doubt he could have envisaged a scenario such as this.

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Taira told the Telegraph: "I am very grateful to Prince Harry, because it was after...the Invictus Games that the Russians stopped interrogating and torturing me. I think that spreading the word to the whole world influenced their decision to trade me in a prisoner exchange."

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What an honour it was for Harry and Meghan to present Taira with an Archery medal this morning.

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Taira's 19-year-old daughter Anna-Sofia Puzanova represented her mother at the games last year. Words cannot convey how much having her back means. Tonight, Anna-Sofia spoke on stage about how proud she of her mother, bringing Taira to tears.

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Anna-Sofia then welcomed Harry.

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As Harry took to the stage, I knew it was going to be a moving speech. I didn't know it wouldn't leave a dry eye in the arena. "What you have seen and experienced this week is so much more than a sporting event. It is a platform for positive change. The ripple of respect has been felt far and wide, and we hope you too, are feeling it deeply. I'm sure you're all physically exhausted, who wouldn't be, but I also hope you are mentally stronger than when you arrived.

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"We may have provided the platform, but you provided the magic. And don't you ever forget that.

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"We've all witnessed the impact sport has had on your recovery and on your post-traumatic growth. You will never know the impact your actions this week have had on millions of people around the world. You have opened people's hearts through your vulnerability, resilience and sheer abilities. You have showed us that joy can emerge from struggles and for that we are eternally grateful. You don’t need to rely on a uniform, nor should you feel lost without one. Why? Because everything you need is already within you."

Harry then shared a deeply moving story from the week; one which was felt throughout the entire audience. "Yesterday, I met with with Master Corporal James Gendron at the Invictus Games 2025 tent. While we were chatting, I noticed bagpipes lying on the floor in the far corner. Some of you know what bagpipes mean to me, so I couldn't help but hope they would be played." Harry then called out to James in the audience.

The Prince continued: "Little did I know, 30 minutes later, it would be James picking them up to offer to play. Little did I know what they meant to him, nor did I know what memories they triggered for him. In Afghanistan he played 63 ramp ceremonies. For 63 caskets. For 63 souls. For four years after that last ceremony, he couldn't touch them. This week he wasn't sure whether he could bring himself to play them. But he did. What had once haunted him, dare I say it, may now be what helps heal him."

In Spare, Harry recalled the death of his mother and the sound of bagpipes: "With bagpipes, it's not the tune, it's the tone. Thousands of years old, bagpipes are built to amplify what's already in the heart. If you're feeling silly, bagpipes make you sillier. If you're angry, bagpipes bring your blood to a higher boil. And if you're in grief, even if you’re twelve years old and don't know you're in grief, maybe especially if you don't know, bagpipes can drive you mad."

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As Harry sat down, Meghan kissed his shoulder and placed a comforting hand on his back.

Team UK went above and beyond to show Meghan their love this week and I know she appreciated it.

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Royal Navy Veteran Kenetha 'Frankie' Franklyn embraced the Duchess tonight.

It's a night for hugs.

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A little dancing as Rita Ora performed.

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There are so many moments I won't forget. Oleksandr Makovei of Team Ukraine giving his all in the Men's IF8 Discus Throw Final for one.

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Ihor's story.

This is Invictus.

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The Invictus spirit is Wali Noori who takes home 4 medals for Britain. UK Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer said earlier today: "I pay enormous tribute to him {Harry} and everything he's done. You can see lives he's changed, literally there right in front of you. Personally, I'm incredibly grateful to him."

Team Nigeria made a beautiful impression. It was not only their first year competing, they are the first country from Africa to join the Invictus family. Harry teased Meghan would be cheering them on, and my word, did they give her a warm welcome! The team gave Meghan the name name Amira Ngozi Lolo. 'Amira' is the name of a warrior princess from legend, while 'Ngozi' means 'blessing' and 'Lolo' means 'royal wife'.

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The Duke and Duchess were on their feet for the team tonight.

"I wish this event could go on forever. The Invictus Games has not only helped wounded, sick, and injured Soldiers on their path to recovery but also gave us all profound insights into their resilience and determination." - Team Nigeria.

Team UK's Jonny Ball said: "Prince Harry, the human touch he has is simply extraordinary. He came around and met every single athlete. I was also able to show him a picture of my little girl who is also a redhead. I said to him, 'Oh look, this is my little girl." I've got a picture of her pulling a funny face and he said, "My little girl does that face!"

Rachel Kerrigan's story will break your heart: "Learning to live with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and to get to a point that I am thriving again is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. The Invictus Games gave me that. They taught me that it is never too late to build the future I want. They gave me the self-belief to realise that, no matter how hard life has been, I have the physical and mental strength to succeed. When I look back at how far I have come, I am incredibly grateful." Below, Rachel talks about the role her eight-year-old daughter played, essentially providing a support system during the darkest days.

Harry and Meghan fell in love with sweet Hope yesterday. At just twelve weeks old, she's helping Team Belgium's Martun manage his PTSD. For Martun, Invictus means being there for people -- with visible and invisible injuries.

Invictus is about friendship.

It's fun!

Looking ahead -- a special message from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Traditional Territory leaders welcome Invictus.

It's about moments like this.

Seeing these two in action again, doing what they do best, has been the cherry on top.

The Duchess has had a fantastic wardrobe of sleek, stylish neutrals at the games this week, however I think you'll agree she saved the best for last.

The Duchess wore the beautiful strapless cut-out Cult Gaia Raylene gown (with thanks to Pearl).

The 'seamoss' tailored piece is described: "Raylene is an artistically crafted gown that plays with texture and pattern. This floor-length gown features floral patterns in Seamoss-colored lace. The floral pattern is enhanced by lazercut cutouts that give depth and complexity. An underlayer assures discrete coverage. A back-zip allows for easy-wear and a long-slit up the back ensures that you can move and dance in this slimming dress." The embroidered gown is available here and here.

Meghan has been doing her own hair and make up throughout the week. The results have been fabulous.

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Meghan wore her nappa leather Aquazzura pumps from earlier today.

She accessorised with her Kimai earrings.

And her Cartier Love bracelet.

To watch the ceremony in its entirety, please click here.

Invictus Dusseldorf -- a week not to be forgotten.

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"The Nation Is Incredibly Grateful to Him": The Final Day of Invictus Begins with Praise for Harry & Celebrating "the Most Courageous & Resilient" Woman

It's the final day of the Invictus Games! Ahead of tonight's closing ceremony, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were on hand in Invictus Village again this morning to present a medal to a woman who has inspired us all.

Harry and Meghan arriving.

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Last night, the Duke and Duchess were joined at the sitting volleyball finals by Minister of State for Veterans' Affairs of the United Kingdom Johnny Mercer. Speaking to Forces News today, Mr Mercer said: "I pay enormous tribute to him {Harry} and everything he's done. You can see lives he's changed, literally there right in front of you. Personally, I'm incredibly grateful to him; the nation is incredibly grateful to him for what he's done in this space. I think it's a legacy he can be incredibly proud of."

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The Minister of State praised the games as "a festival of recovery", adding, "The transformation stories I've seen, I don't think I have seen anything else quite like it."

Scenes at today's archery competition.

Harry and Meghan had the honour of presenting Taira from Team Ukraine, a woman whose "courage and resilience" was singled out by Prince Harry during the opening ceremony. From braving the front lines in her home country to surviving captivity, Taira's journey to Invictus has been truly unique. I've seen videos and clips throughout the week and I'm continually struck by her positivity.

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Those who watched Heart of Invictus may have seen Taira practicing her archery. I'm delighted to say she took the bronze medal today.

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A group hug.

The Duchess congratulated and hugged Team USA member Danielle Pothoof at the swimming presentation.

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It's a medal and a hug for Team USA swimmer Annika Nadine Hustler.

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More on Annika's story:

'Hutsler enlisted into the Marine Corp in 2017 and quickly after that, she started to feel some pain on her right foot. At first, she didn’t think it was something to be worried about since she was involved in boot camp. However, the discomfort continued and was misdiagnosed with a stress fracture. Medics decided to treat her, but after months of continuous pain, they chose to do an MRI and found a tumor on her right foot.

The complication was that the tumor I had typically didn’t happen in the foot, rather on the brain and spinal cord,” Hutsler explained. “Therefore, the doctors weren’t pretty sure how to treat it. They tried shrinking it a couple of times, but that didn’t work. Then they tried removing it but that just caused infection and nerve damage. I was just miserable. I spend time on a wheelchair, crutches, even on a walking boot over 400 days. This wasn’t living for me anymore.”

After 14 months of several attempts to remove the tumor, Hutsler decided to amputate her leg.'

Annika has spoken about the power of sport and how she found recovery through participation "beneficial", adding, "I wasn’t a very athletic person growing up, but I realized that I loved being active and trying out all these new things that I never even had thought about trying before losing my leg."

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Meghan on presentation duties.

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It was an event full of heart and a fitting end to the sporting competition.

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Once again this year, Meghan was excited to take over Reading Hour in the Kids' Arena.

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Also just in, the Duke and Duchess, along with the Invictus Games Foundation, took the opportunity to wish a very Happy Birthday to competitors, families, staff and volunteers who celebrated a birthday during the week. Harry celebrated his 39th in style yesterday with a rapturous showering of love. The image below included those from the Invictus Foundation: David Wiseman, JJ Chalmers who has been fronting coverage for the BBC, and Beth Herlihy and Clara Loughran (the ladies bookending the photo in striped tops). The former Kensington Palace staffers have been by Harry and Meghan's side every day this week and deserve a round of applause for a job well done.

For Meghan's first ensemble of the final day of the games, we're once again seeing her stay true to her love of neutral, classic, understated styles.

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Another view.

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The Duchess wore Cuyana's Silk Classic Trench in sand. Cuyana is a women-built company with a strong focus on sustainability and preserving heritage craft traditions. By the end of this year, 100% of their products will be made from sustainably made materials, which are often recycled or reused. Cuyana works with H.E.A.R.T ((Helping Ease Abuse Related Trauma), a non-profit organization dedicated to helping female victims of abuse by donating apparel and accessories to their mission.

Described as "an elevated interpretation of the classic layer, made from light and luxurious Crêpe de Chine Silks with two belt options in silk and lambskin for a versatile piece". It's available in XS - XL here.

It was teamed with Cuyana's Silk Paperbag Pants in sand. Made in a cropped length from crepe de chine silk, they are currently in stock here.

Meghan wore her Aquazzura Purist 105 pumps in nappa leather. The Duchess has owned the pair for several years.

A closer look at the distinctive pineapple logo.

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Meghan accessorised with her Lanvin Arpege Sleeper earrings.

Until tonight then, dear readers! The Closing Ceremony promises to be one to remember.