It It was an enchanting moment that charmed all of us. The Duke and Duchess were greeted by a young boy, seven years old, as they entered Westminster Abbey Wednesday evening.

Little Tony Hudgell, rosy-cheeked and wearing a neat shirt and jacket, smiled as the Royal couple sat down to talk to him about Christmas songs.

It was obvious to everyone that it was an unforgettable moment for Tony and for Mark and Paula his adoptive parents, who watched in tears.

Paula described it as magical.

Tony is one of the few boys who has had to battle to live as long as he did. Tony’s prosthetics limbs are visible below his shorts. He had both of his legs amputated at three.

Tony Hudgell beamed as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge crouched down to chat to him about his favourite Christmas carols at Westminster Abbey on Wednesday evening

Tony Hudgell was beaming as the Duke of Cambridge and Duchesss of Cambridge sat down on Wednesday night to talk to him about his favorite Christmas songs at Westminster Abbey

This is his shocking tale. His story is shocking. At six weeks of age, his birth parents neglected him and he suffered from an array of life-threatening injuries that included multiple organ failures, fractures, and sepsis.

He underwent 23 operations, eight blood transfusions and survived for the rest of his life.

Tony – known to Mark and Paula as ‘Bear’ – was invited to Kate’s Together At Christmas carol service after demonstrating courage beyond his years, having raised more than £1.6 million by walking 10km on his new legs in aid of the Evelina London Children’s Hospital which cared for him. 

He had barely used them before, but inspired by the late Captain Sir Tom Moore, who at 99 raised £33 million for NHS charities by walking laps of his garden, Tony dragged himself around on crutches until he was strong enough to walk unaided.

Paula, 54 years old, said to The Mail that Tony was thrilled. 

“His tiny face was lit up when Kate and William appeared. He walked toward her and she sat down at his level. William followed her and they chatted for what felt like hours. 

Tony raised more than £1.6 million by walking 10km on his new prosthetic legs in aid of the Evelina London Children's Hospital which cared for him

Tony raised more than £1.6 million by walking 10km on his new prosthetic legs in aid of the Evelina London Children’s Hospital which cared for him

“Kate” asked him questions about his walk, whether he still went to the hospital, and finally she inquired what his favorite Christmas song was. 

He was shy at first because Santa Baby is his favourite Christmas song. However, William then said, “I like that one too” and he was delighted.

“It was magical.”

Mark, who is 57 years old, remembers the conversation lasting ‘probably 5 minutes’. He also recalls how Tony spent much more time with him than anyone else.

Paula and he sat silently for the remainder of the service led by Dr David Hoyle, Dean of Westminster.

This concert began with the hymn Once In Royal David’s City. Then, it featured carols sung in Westminster Abbey by Leona Lewis and Ellie Goulding. There were also readings from Prince William and Kate Garraway. 

As the guests arrived, there were also reindeer and a singing choir outside.

Paula said, “It was all so festive.” “Everything Kate wanted to do together at Christmas.

In the order of service – which was signed ‘Catherine’ – the Duchess wrote of ‘how powerful human connection is to us all’.

“Over the past 2 years, we have been inspired by many people who brought their community together through simple acts love and kindness,” she wrote.

“This Carol Service recognizes the inspirational contributions of many of you.

Few stories are more inspiring than Tony’s – which, in no small part, is down to the love and support he has received from Paula and Mark.

From West Malling in Kent they have five children together, three each from past relationships. Tony was their second adopted child after the couple began foster care in 2014.

Paula, who was a market research supervisor and is now Tony’s primary carer will never forget seeing him first. 

Four months later, he still battles for his life after suffering horrific abuse from his parents Tony Smith (Jody Simpson) and Smith (Tony Smith).

They had just weeks ago swung their baby around his ankles swinging him, breaking his legs in eight places. After a long campaign from Paula, Mark and others to bring them to justice, the pair are now serving a ten year sentence for child abuse.

Paula recalls, ‘Originally I was not given the details.’ ‘I was just told the bare minimum – that he had been poorly in hospital and had his limbs broken.

“I thought that it was OK. Limbs are healing.

“I was requested to spend 48 hours with the baby until I could bring him home. The baby was in his cot, and although he seemed very calm for being four months old, he appeared tiny. 

“His legs were covered in plaster, and his arms were very thin. The plaster had only been removed the previous day.

Paula was shown his file by a nurse who gently described Tony’s terrible past and gave him a gentle explanation.

She said, “The first few photos, I broke down and sobbed.” 

Tony – known to his adoptive parents Mark and Paula as 'Bear' – was invited to Kate's (pictured) Together At Christmas carol service after demonstrating courage beyond his years

Tony – known to his adoptive parents Mark and Paula as ‘Bear’ – was invited to Kate’s (pictured) Together At Christmas carol service after demonstrating courage beyond his years

It was the worst, most terrible combination of circumstances. The mother of his father had waited for him to be admitted by the doctor ten days earlier. His condition was unresponsive and grey. He also had a frothing mouth.

The nurse in the GP clinic called an ambulance right away and provided critical antibiotics.

Paula says, “That’s what saved him, that gave him the chance.” They didn’t think he would survive. According to his nurse, he will need constant care as well as frequent trips to the hospital. It was so overwhelming to see this little, fragile and damaged baby.

Paula was initially skeptical that they would be able to provide the necessary support for Tony. After giving Tony his first cuddle, and looking into his brown eyes she was certain he would return home.

“He had the most beautiful brown eyes I’ve ever seen.” He was tiny and looked huge. He was so tiny that I took a photo of him and sent it to Mark. It is my duty to take him home. ‘

It was a difficult road ahead. Tony was very, very sick and took painkillers and antibiotics.

He was very closed-off. He was like a shell even when he opened his eyes. Nothing was there. There wasn’t any expression. It was all I could see was fearful and sad. He was so in pain.

Tony’s parents allowed three supervised visits per week. Paula remembers that Tony experienced night terrors following seeing his parents.

“Psychologically, it did him more harm seeing them three days a week. But it was against their human right not to allow it.

“They really harmed him twice. The social worker brought him back to me a week after his discharge from hospital. She said that he was very upset. He still cries.

‘I lifted the blanket off the car seat and discovered he wasn’t strapped in – if they had knocked him, he would have fallen out – and the plaster cast on his leg had been pulled down over his foot.

“I was forced to transport him back to hospital and have the cast removed. A new cast was then put on.

“On another occasion after the plaster cast was removed, the splint that had been wrapped around his leg to maintain it straight had been snapped to the back of his knee. This is very difficult to do.

“There wasn’t much I could do. It was all I could do to notify the social workers, and keep a log of my activities. The visits went on.

Mark and Paula adopted Tony in March 2016. His official guardians, Mark and Paula finally got to see the horrifying details of his injuries.

The police decided to drop the case against his parents, which was disappointing. The doctors realized they were unable to save Tony’s legs so they amputated them in 2017.

Paula said, “I knew that we needed to do something.” “If the family had sought help for him when he suffered those first fractures, he could have recovered and been able walk again.”

Tony had barely used his prosthetic legs, but inspired by the late Captain Sir Tom Moore (pictured), he dragged himself around his garden on crutches

Tony hadn’t used his prosthetic legs in a while, and Captain Sir Tom Moore (pictured) inspired him to drag himself about his yard on crutches.

After Paula and Mark Lobbying the Police, Their Crime Commissioner and their MP Tom Tugendhat, Simpson and Smith were eventually charged with child cruelty. They were released in February 2018.

Tony then decided against all odds to do the sponsored walk last June, despite significant difficulties. 

The prosthetic leg was not yet fully functional at the time, and he decided to continue walking one-third of a kilometre per day in order to hit the 10 km mark by the end.

Paula states that it took him an hour to get through the first days. For him, it was difficult. He was moving so quickly by the end of his 30 day period. We saw such a massive improvement in his walking – and it’s continued to this day.

‘We thought we’d raise £500 – then our community got behind us and it went national and global.’

Mark says that as the event progressed, Mark noticed more people joining the walk. It was amazing. Many people put up banners, and traveled for many miles to meet him. His name was tooted on by many cars. This really unites our community.

The Duchess Of Cambridge was a Patron of Evelina London when the fundraiser came to her attention.

Tony has now got a frame of a letter from Kate dating August 7, 2020. After your incredible fundraising efforts for Evelina Children’s Hospital last month, the Duchess of Cambridge wrote to Tony: “I want to express my gratitude.”

It was inspiring to read how Sir Tom Moore’s tale inspired you to take on your own walking journey. It is amazing that you continued to walk even though your goal of 10km was reached.

Evelina is very grateful for your hard work and proud of all you accomplished. I hope that you manage to have a very well-deserved rest before starting on your next adventure – whatever that may be! Catherine.’

Paula says, “It just appeared in the post.”

“He obviously was excited as it was Royal. But he was just five years old at that time, so it was difficult to grasp.

“He thought she was Princess Kate, and I said to him that she is now the Queen of England. It’s amazing how fortunate you are. You could not be more proud.

To raise funds for charities that have supported their son, Tony and Jane Hudgell have created the Tony Hudgell foundation.

The pair also successfully lobbied for harsher punishments for child abusers. 

Tony’s Law – an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – was introduced last month, raising the maximum penalty for causing or allowing serious harm to a child from ten to 14 years, while causing the death of a child rises from 14 years to life.

Paula says, “We are his mom and dad, and he loves us as much as we love him.” 

“You have a tendency to think: “Could I love a child other than your own?” It’s possible, I am able to say. You can.’ ‘

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