Russell Blackstock is a senior reporter at the Weekend Herald and Herald on Sunday.

Red Nose Day appeal to raise money for medical research into children's mental health

Funds raised in this year's Red Nose Day will be focused on battling New Zealand's growing child and adolescent mental health problems.

Thousands of Kiwis will take part in the iconic charity appeal on Friday to raise money for vital medical research to find cures and better treatment for health conditions and illnesses that affect out children.

Cure Kids, the organisation behind Red Nose Day, last year funded almost $2.5 million of new child health research projects.

Cure Kids is presently funding research for serious health conditions including cot death, stillbirth, leukaemia, rheumatic heart disease, burns, cystic fibrosis, asthma, and inherited heart conditions.

This year, they are hoping to pull in about $1m to help go towards fighting increasing mental health issues among kids.

"About one in four children and adolescents have some kind of significant mental health or behavioural issues in New Zealand, so our focus this year is on helping tackle this," Cure Kids marketing director, Debbie Billcliff, said.

"It is an area of great concern and something we are learning more about every year.

"There is a lot of information and help available about mental health issues among adults but more research is needed into fixing these issues with children.

"We have just appointed a new chairperson to specifically look at kids' mental health and some funds from this year's appeal will be channelled into that area."

Red Nose Day will be action-packed with schools, corporates, hospitals and individuals getting involved around the country.

Funds will be raised through activities and events including a bubble soccer fundraiser, bake sales and a school disco.

Around 1000 schools and over 300 businesses have already signed up to take part, with more than 130,000 red noses making their away to schools and businesses in preparation.

People have already started sharing their efforts by posting their red-nosed photos on social media using the #REDiculous, #rednosedaynz, curekids and #connecttothecure hashtags.

Donations can be made online through the Red Nose Day website (www.rednoseday.co.nz); by texting NOSE to 933; or at participating retailers around New Zealand including Briscoes which this year will stock red noses in four novelty designs.

'Cure Kids has been a lifeline to us'

Brave 10-year-old Jenna Blom has been battling serious health problems since the day she was born.

She arrived a month premature and was delivered by an emergency C-section.

A few hours after giving birth, mum Tracey, from Hobsonville, Auckland, and her husband Darryl, were devastated when told their new daughter had Down Syndrome.

Jenna was also born with dual cataracts and an autism spectrum disorder, and was diagnosed with type one diabetes at nine months. She also underwent heart surgery when she was one.

"We seemed to have endless hospital appointments for eyes, heart, paediatricians and some days it was overwhelming," Tracey, who also has two older children, says. "I wanted to know who was testing my family and I.

"I kept asking myself what had we done that our baby was to be repeatedly punished?"

Despite her health issues, Jenna is a happy and popular child. She attends Upper Harbour Primary School and is in a mainstream class.

Tracey says her daughter could not have achieved any of this without ongoing help and support from Cure Kids.

"Cure Kids has been a lifeline to us," she says. "We get amazing support and assistance from them every day and we would be lost without them.

"The important thing is Cure Kids gave us hope from the start and to have a resource like this on tap is invaluable.

"We could never repay Cure Kids for what they have done for our family."

- NZ Herald

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