This time in two weeks I'll have finished my third Auckland Half Marathon but it'll be my first time running for a charity - the Starship Foundation.
It's a great privilege to play a tiny part in assisting this fine organisation raise funds that help ensure families from across New Zealand have access to world-class healthcare at Starship Children's Hospital.
Last week, after notching up hundreds of kilometres during training, I felt I was hitting a plateau and in need of some motivation. I decided to visit Starship to check out the recently refurbished wards on Level 6 of which Starship Foundation donors provided $5 million out of the $6 million needed to complete the project. Now that's pretty awesome.
Charge Nurse Sandy Murphy took me on an eye-opening tour of her recently renovated floor. Sadly, Starship is like a second home to many children, and for some it IS their home. Sandy told me she has taken kids outside for the very first time - they hadn't even felt the wind in their faces or grass between their toes.
Man, hearing that put life into perspective for me.
A major goal of the rebuild was to create an environment that was as homely as possible, within clinical constraints. And what a magnificent job they've done, designing the most appealing hospital space I've seen, starting at the front door.
The new entrance is bright and welcoming. Volunteers meet and greet families as they arrive, opening doors for them and taking care of their luggage so they begin their stay as pleasantly as possible during what is undoubtedly a very scary time.
Almost all of the rooms are now singles. Particular attention was also given to the needs of parents. Each room has a foldout bed, wardrobe and sofa so they can comfortably stay with their children and two new lounges were built, complete with kitchens and beautiful art. Every corridor is decorated with murals; the walls depict nature, beaches and outdoor fun - including pictures drawn by patients that have been incorporated into the designs. Finally, the rebuild provided more efficient workstations and staff facilities, creating extra time for patient care and an improved work environment the selfless staff deserve.
It's amazing what the generosity of Kiwis can achieve. The scale of the upgrade and resulting impact it's had on staff, patients and their families is huge. I left feeling highly motivated after seeing how hundreds of little fundraising efforts can create so much.
I've set a target to raise $3000 for the Starship Foundation. Will I hit it? Heck I want to obliterate that figure. I'd love to help more children get what they need so they too have the chance to run a marathon, or at least feel the wind on their faces for the first time.
• If you'd like to help me help Starship, you can make a donation on my page fundraiseonline.co.nz. Thank you in advance - you rock!
A winner's thoughts
I felt for the teams this week as they battled Auckland's temperamental climate with deluges of water coming down the moment they stepped outside. Despite the challenges this posed, the exteriors are now successfully halfway through their transformations.
It was awesome to see everyone lay down large tracts of lawn. I think grass is a mandatory in any Kiwi yard. Pete and Andy clearly agree and took it one step further by creating a mean cricket pitch and thoroughly deserved their first victory. I think I heard New Zealand exhale "about bloody time" in unison when the results were revealed.
Loz and Tom had a big advantage when they inherited an existing garden with mature trees but unfortunately they couldn't complete the space in time. I liked Alisa and Koan's classy paved area and loved Alice and Caleb's front porch, creating perfect street appeal by maximising the house's character.
She's going to be a big one next week as the homes near completion. I can't wait to see how they turn out.
• Ben Crawford won The Block NZ 2012 with sister Libby and runs creative advertising agency Libby & Ben.