Four months on from having eye surgery in the US, Zahnee Campbell has gone up two reading grades and is a different child.

Her self-esteem has gone through the roof, she has stopped having headaches, and most importantly, she can hold her head up straight and see properly.

The surgery needed by the 6-year-old was not available in New Zealand, so with no government funding available her family fundraised nearly $70,000 needed for the trip.

And though Zahnee's battle is now over, her family has now turned their attention to other Kiwi families facing similar plights.


Through their charitable trust, Zahnee's Cause, the family continues to raise money for other children in similar situations.

Yesterday, all proceeds from the Papamoa Pony Club Waitangi Day Beachside Ribbon Day went to the cause.

With about 45 riders and an entry fee of $30, at least $1350 was raised.

And Zahnee, along with parents Jade Riley and Paul Campbell and 4-year-old brother Zandon, manned a sausage sizzle and sold drinks to raise more money for the cause. It's about giving back, Ms Riley said.

"Zahnee won't just be known as the girl with the mark on her face. We want her to be known as giving back to the community as well.

"We brought her along to help so she understands what it's all about. We want her and Zandon both to know what their contribution is."

Zahnee's operation was to reposition her eyes due to damage from a rare facial vascular hemangioma tumour she was born with.

Ms Riley hopes Zahnee's Cause will raise at least $5000 every year, with the proceeds to be distributed on September 29 - the anniversary of Zahnee's life-changing operation.


"That would be something that Zahnee would donate, because she's had so much support [from the community].

"Obviously there's a need for it because not everybody gets government funding."

Zahnee became involved with Papamoa Pony Club through Project KPH (Kids Pursuing Hope)- a charitable trust which enables children living with disease, disability, special conditions or terminal illness to realise their talents and dreams through projects that fit their interests.

Zahnee had already benefited from Riding for the Disabled, and took her riding further with KPH.

Riding had built Zahnee's confidence and improved her balance, her mother said.

"It's really challenging for her which is good, she needs the challenge," Ms Riley said.

"One day before she had her operation, she came off her horse. But it was a good thing, as she had to use a few emotions to get back on - a bit of bravery, a bit of encouragement."

Before Christmas, Zahnee even competed at a ribbon day show. The horse she rides is Matchbox, who belongs to Papamoa Pony Club secretary Linda Hitchman. Mrs Hitchman said the club traditionally held a Waitangi Day Ribbon Day raising money for charity or a worthwhile organisation.