The family of the young girl brutally attacked at a Turangi camping ground a year ago today are sending Christmas wishes to the "special" Kiwis and say their daughter is recovering well.
The European family, who were granted permanent name suppression this year when teenager Raurangi Marino was convicted of raping the young girl, said she was enjoying her first year at school and the awful event would be easier to forget when her two new teeth finally appeared.
The girl sustained facial injuries and needed urgent surgery at Waikato Hospital after the attack, which occurred when she was asleep in the hired caravan with her younger brother at Club Habitat in Turangi.
The rape left New Zealanders in disbelief and shock as her parents were only metres away using the computer in the camp's common room.
The family will this year enjoy a wintry Christmas in Europe and say their daughter, now aged 6, has bounced back.
"She recovered quickly and enjoys her first year at school, playing happily with her friends. Time passed by quickly and helped us get back to normal life.
"When her two new teeth finally grow, it will be even easier not to remember," the family said.
They thanked New Zealanders, including hospital staff, police, organisations, and especially the individuals who sent letters, emails, toys and donations, and they wished everyone a Merry Christmas and a relaxing summer break.
"We will never forget the warmth and hospitality of the families who hosted us through the weeks after," the family said.
Last year, New Zealanders raised $62,000 for the family, who in return donated almost a third of it back to Waikato Hospital, Victim Support, ECPAT Child Alert NZ and the Turangi community.
At the request of the family, the Weekend Herald found that three of the four organisations who received the money had already put it to good use.
Victim Support chief executive Tony Paine said they had to raise about $1 million a year on top of the government funding to keep the organisation going so the donation had been a big help.
ECPAT national director Alan Bell said the money was instrumental in starting a youth participation project to encourage university students to become child advocates and form action groups to further the organisation's work to prevent the sexual exploitation of children.
At Waikato's child and youth health services (Waikids), paediatric registrar Marilyn Wong said the textbooks purchased were regularly referred to for information. Waikids paediatric surgeon Askar Kakkady, who led the young girl's operation last year, had ordered new surgical equipment with the money.
The Taupo District Council is holding the $5000 gifted to the Turangi community to build a playground, and it will be spent as part of a larger $1.3 million revitalisation project planned for the town over three years.
Turangi's council representative, Gary Keepa, said tenders were being considered for the first stage of the project, which included spending about $400,000 on landscaping works on the main road.
It was likely to start in February, while the town centre upgrade and new playground would be created in the second half of the year as stage two of the project.By Nikki Preston Email Nikki