Jamie Morton

Jamie Morton is science reporter at the NZ Herald.

Little girl tells her brave story to help others

Zahnee Riley-Campbell, 7, whose debilitating facial tumour has been operated on in New York, hopes her book's sales will help raise money for other sick children. Photo / Alan Gibson
Zahnee Riley-Campbell, 7, whose debilitating facial tumour has been operated on in New York, hopes her book's sales will help raise money for other sick children. Photo / Alan Gibson

A brave girl's journey from patient to patron will reach a milestone next week when Zahnee Riley-Campbell celebrates her own inspirational storybook to benefit other children living with special conditions.

The launch of the 7-year-old's book, Zahnee's Story, comes just over a year after she and her family travelled from Papamoa to New York for surgery to treat her facial vascular hemangioma tumour, an external and internal birthmark.

The condition - thought to be the only case in New Zealand - caused her eyesight to deteriorate, affected her co-ordination and left her with headaches and painful pressure on her shoulders from having to balance her head on an angle.

Unable to qualify for Government funding, Zahnee's family turned to the public to raise the $60,000 needed for the operation - a dream realised with the help of generous Herald readers.

Now Zahnee is set to give back with the help of children's charity Project KPH (Kids Pursuing Hope), which supports young people living with terminal illness, disease, disability and other special conditions.

Through the charity and Papamoa locals Linda and Kevin Hitchman, Zahnee began weekly horse-riding lessons last July. After recovering from her operation in September, she was soon back riding pony Matchie and won five ribbons and a treasured letter from Olympian Mark Todd.

The charity helped her tell her story through a children's book. She worked with Sue Farrell from Rotorua and book designer Bruce Wallace from Auckland to produce a tale of a little girl overcoming the odds to achieve her dream.

The book will provide Zahnee - who also lives with Asperger's syndrome a sustainable means to fund her own charity, Zahnee's Cause, which helps children needing treatment or operations overseas that are not government-funded.

Zahnee's Story will be launched at 3.30pm on Monday at the Rotorua District Library.

- NZ Herald

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