A CANCER support centre has been given the royal stamp of approval after winning an award from the Queen.

Mechelle Harris, founder of The Hummingbird Cancer Support and Therapy Centre in Launton, Bicester, came face-to-face with members of the royal family after being invited to the Queen's garden party.

The trip to Buckingham Palace last month followed the surprise news that the centre had won a Queen's Award for Voluntary Service – the highest award given to volunteer groups in the country.

Ms Harris said: "We were informed about it some time ago but were not allowed to say anything, which has been difficult.

"We received a letter from the Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire (Tim Stevenson OBE) which said we had been given the award.

"For the team and myself it is great to get the recognition, and how do you top that seal of approval from Her Majesty the Queen?

"It gives the whole team a real boost to be recognised at such a high level because we are all volunteers, none of us get paid.

"Its wonderful to just confirm as a team that what we are doing works well and to get such great support."

Ms Harris said the original nomination came from former Bicester mayor and councillor Jolanta Lis who passed away suddenly in April.

Mrs Lis had long been a supporter of the centre and chose to fundraise for them during her mayoral year from 2016.

To receive a Queen's Award, charities must be nominated before going through a stringent process of interviews both with volunteers and other supporters in the community.

The Hummingbird Cancer centre was founded by Ms Harris in 2014 to provide support to those diagnosed with cancer or with family who are.

In order to achieve the Queen's Award a charity has to be three years old and as such Ms Harris believes The Hummingbird Cancer centre to be one of the youngest winners of the award.

As a result, she and her friends were invited to Buckingham Palace on Thursday, May 31, to celebrate its achievement.

The volunteers were able to meet the Queen, Prince William and Princess Eugenie in the garden of Buckingham Palace.

Ms Harris said: "It was so surreal to think we were in the Queen's garden.

"We did get to meet the Queen which was also very surreal – she was so tiny.

"Prince William was also very nice to speak to. They just asked if we were enjoying ourselves because we still weren't able to speak about the Queen's Award at that point."

The Hummingbird Cancer Support and Therapy Centre is hoping to expand over the coming year and is in the process of acquiring another building within its current site.