When Morgan Penny was born, her parents were told she had a one per cent of chance of survival.

At 25 years old, the Tauranga woman continues to break through boundaries and is about to head off on an international trip of a lifetime, representing new Zealand in basketball at the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi next month.

"It's quite fantastic considering where she's come from," say her dad, Keith Penny.

He said Morgan suffered a "brain injury through medical misadventure" and he was told by a group of 20 doctors that she had a "99 per cent chance of not surviving".


"We were planning for the worst," he says.

But after being told she would only be able to feed with assistance from a feeding tube and then seeing her feed by mouth within 48 hours of being born he knew she was determined.

Ever since then she has been breaking all the rules, Keith says.

Morgan is a member of the Tauranga Special Olympics and she is one of two athletes who have been selected to represent New Zealand at the games. The other is Kelly Nathan, who will be swimming at the competition.

Both are excited to be representing their country, Morgan saying she is particularly looking forward to "taking in this new experience".

"I haven't been to Abu Dhabi before so it will be the first time, it's going to be exciting."

Morgan has been playing basketball since about 2013. The forward says there is so much about the sport she enjoys.

"It's the one sport I play, it's the one I've made the most of the opportunity."


"You know exactly what you're doing at a particular time, just gelling and enjoying the team bonding side of things, I just like it [basketball]."

Kelly is committed to his training, getting up early for one-hour sessions every Sunday and Monday for an hour each time. He says he took up swimming about three years ago because he wanted to give it a go, with his favourite being freestyle.

This experience doesn't come without a heft cost, though.

For each special Olympian to go, it costs $12,500. Each athlete has to contribute $2500 and the Tauranga Special Olympics cover the remaining $10,000. The organisation tries to secure funding each year but efforts have not proven fruitful which means they are now facing the possibility of borrowing the remaining $15,000 needed.

The organisation has set up a givealittle page to help them in their bid to send these athletes to the world games.

Tauranga Special Olympics chairwoman Louella Axon says they have held sausage sizzle and small fundraisers but funding applications have

"Although we apply for grants, a lot of them don't cater for overseas travel," Axon says.

"It's a long way short."

She says there are 43 athletes representing New Zealand, all being given the opportunity to travel, have some independence and gain a lot of confidence.

"To have two going from one club is quite an achievement.

"We 're very proud of these two."

And so are the families of Morgan and Kelly.

Morgan's dad Keith says the Special Olympics has provided his daughter with many opportunities such as encouraging her to get out and try things, socialise, go away for training camps, fly by herself and more.

"She comes back a different person."

Kelly's dad, Lance Nathan says the Special Olympics Tauranga was "awesome".

"The doors that open for them is just incredible."

He says Kelly, who has also does snow sports, has a drive that is inspiring and he loves swimming and competing.

He hopes Kelly and Morgan have a good time representing New Zealand and have a successful tournament, that isn't all about winning.

To donate, go to givealittle.co.nz/cause/tauranga-special-olympics-plea.