Pride of NZ Awards: Happy children icing on the cake

By Vaimoana Tapaleao

A woman who baked to brighten birthdays of kids in hospital near her home now runs a countrywide charity.

Rachel Jenkinson's charity has 850 volunteer bakers. Photo / APN
Rachel Jenkinson's charity has 850 volunteer bakers. Photo / APN

The Pride of New Zealand Awards recognise ordinary Kiwis doing big things in their communities.

Anyone can nominate people they feel are unsung heroes, campaigners and leaders working hard to make a difference within their local community.

The awards are a key component of the Herald's 150th birthday celebrations and have been launched in association with The Hits radio station and TSB Bank, and with support from APN regional newspapers.

The six categories honour bravery and heroism, community spirit, environmental leaders, emergency heroes and fundraisers. A special lifetime achievement award will be given and a people's choice award will allow the public to choose their favourites among those nominated.

Nominees will have their story featured in the Herald, APN regional newspapers, The Hits radio station and TSB Bank branches.

Community spirit category: Rachel Jenkinson

Baking for others is always rewarding. But it's even more so when it's for a child who is in hospital.

Otago woman Rachel Jenkinson has spent almost two years trying to brighten things up for youngsters who are forced to spend long periods away from school and home because they have to be in hospital.

Mrs Jenkinson, of Balclutha, has always loved to make and decorate cakes. In 2012, she came up with the idea of making birthday cakes for seriously and terminally ill children.

"I wanted to be able to put a hobby to good use. It's a small thing - making a cake - but it's a bit of fun for these kids. It makes them happy and they get excited.

"It's the kind of stuff we take for granted, but it makes them so happy."

The mother of three began organising cakes for youngsters in hospital near her home. But as word got out and referrals came in, she started to think outside the box.

The Operation Sugar charity was soon established and now includes 850 bakers from around the country.

Each baker is assigned cakes throughout the year - at least one a year - and put in touch with a child's family who then give the baker an idea of what they'd like for their child's birthday cake.

"These are some pretty special cakes. They're not like the store-bought ones. We really want to give the kids something special."

The charity has branched out to include the services of up to 250 photographers who, like the bakers, offer their time free to help families capture their child's special day.

For more coverage of the awards, go here or to nominate someone, go to the Pride of New Zealand Awards website.

- NZ Herald

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