This Father's Day, we meet with three local dads and their daughters who make a point of living life to the fullest and enjoy making a difference together.

Dan and Larissa
Regional manager for the Graeme Dingle Foundation, Dan Allen-Gordon, 60, and his daughter Larissa Downey, 28, have worked together on a range of meaningful community projects and share a passion for supporting youth. They've always had the closest relationship and Dan says they are a formidable team.

Larissa, who works as a marketing & event co-ordinator for Ingham Mora and part-time as an actress, says her dad is a champion, a go-getter, and a hardworking man who is always thinking of how he can improve the lives of others.

Dan says he truly admires his daughter's caring nature and her ability to do literally anything and multi-task.


They have worked together in Project K, a 14-month programme designed for Year 10 students that focuses on building confidence, teaching life skills, promoting good health, relationships and encouraging a positive attitude.

"The aim of Project K is to arm rangatahi with a belief in their own ability to complete tasks and achieve goals, and to help them find purpose and direction, transforming their lives," Dan explains.

"Larissa has been an amazing mentor for the Project K programme. She has been an amazing, caring, non-judgmental friend for her girls, which are the best qualities of our mentors. Larissa does everything the best she can, always with absolute honesty," he says.

"She manages so much in her life, for a long time being an employer, an employee, mentor, supporter of charities, sitting on boards as a trustee at such a young age and contributing so much. She was also the youngest ever Rotarian at Tauranga Sunrise when she joined. I'm the luckiest dad around with a beautiful daughter like Larissa, inside and out."

Larissa says their relationship is built on encouragement and support. Alongside their charity work, they have also done plenty of fun things together, such as competing in a tough guy and gal challenge, and they love a good game of charades and have plenty of tongue in cheek banter.

"My dad has always supported me with all the things I have put my mind to. Being my personal taxi driver when I was young, cheering me on in the audience at my shows, and even now as I'm an adult, he helps me with my work when I travel. Most of all, he is a great koro to my son Carter," Larissa says.

"I've learned so much from just watching my dad and following his actions. To be kind, never give up and do everything you want to do. He's only one man, but he does so much for our community. He truly does do all he can to make our world that little bit better. We need more Dans in this world!"

This year is Larissa's husband's first Father's Day and Dan's first year as a granddad.


They are likely to go out for lunch together, as special occasions in this family are usually celebrated over yummy food.

Max and Morgan
Max, 61, and Morgan Ball, 23, enjoy a bit of healthy competition. They compete in marathons and have travelled to Spain together in 2016 for the World Duathlon Championships. Being fit keeps them motivated, in a great space physically and mentally, and they say it makes life more fun.

Max Ball and Morgan Ball
Max Ball and Morgan Ball

Morgan has bronchiectasis, which means her lungs don't work as efficiently as they should, and she started running to keep the disorder at bay. Max admires Morgan's dedication and says she has never let her condition get in the way.

"Morgan suffers in cold weather when her lungs don't cope as well, but she knows how to manage it," he says. "She's my daughter, my training partner, my nutrition guide, my shoe consultant, and sometimes my competitor. Most importantly, she is a great friend. We confide in each other, offer support, and share our goals in life and sport."

When she was 17, Morgan told Max she wanted to run the Rotorua Marathon, known as one of the toughest in New Zealand.

"I said I'd train and run with her. Doing stuff with your kids is what life is all about. It doesn't matter what it is, you just need to get involved because you'll never forget those special moments," Max says.

Max and Morgan trained together six days a week, before and after school, and made weekly trips to the Redwoods for runs. Morgan says the build-up was hard and emotional as she was still in her last year of school. It was a lot to juggle.

"We got to the start line and I never knew it, but Dad had planned on pulling out at 30km because of a foot injury. He said he was going to swap his shoes but didn't come back.
The support crew told me he was in the car, too sore to carry on. He knew that if he had told me prior to the race that he wasn't going to make it, I would have had a meltdown," she says.

"Morgan kept going and finished in four hours. I was so proud of her when she crossed the finish line. It was a huge effort from a very gutsy daughter," Max says.

A few years later, they started cycling and qualified to represent New Zealand at the 2016 World Duathlon Champs in Spain. Neither of them had travelled that far before so that was an adventure in its own. The race was an experience they'll never forget.

Max says he loves competing and pushing back old age. He feels that keeping super fit and healthy makes him a better person and dad. "Just do stuff with your kids. They will love you for it, and most importantly, do stuff for yourself as well. One day you will leave this world. Live a life your kids will remember!"

Bruce and Melissa
Bruce Partridge, 53, and his daughter Melissa, 36, take on extreme adventures together, mostly in foreign countries. Hiking the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea was the start for this dad and daughter team, followed by a trek to Everest base camp nearly 19,000 feet high in the Himalayas.

Melissa and Bruce
Melissa and Bruce

"Being in the rugged outdoors, pushing our bodies to the limit and finding ourselves emotionally and physically brings us back to who we are as people," Melissa says.

"Being grounded and more aware of what life is actually about. Making memories, to be out of your comfort zone, to push ourselves to do things we never thought possible. To feel scared and to do it anyway."

Melissa says she and her dad are similar people that share the same values and thoughts on life. "You either live it or you lose it. I can always count on him for advice. He's my go-to person. Most people have too many excuses to say yes to amazing things, but that's not us."

Bruce praises his daughter's outlook on life and says that her philosophy on life mirrors his own.

"It's the philosophy of less is more. Less stuff, less stress, less panic and pain. This equals more life, more time with those that matter and more living of a full life. A less cluttered existence. It took me a lifetime to obtain, whereas Melissa discovered it at a much younger age," he says.

Hiking the Kokoda Trail started as a light-hearted joke from Bruce, not thinking that Melissa would take it seriously. It is an epic intrepid adventure across the otherwise impassable Owen Stanley mountain range that divides the north and south coasts of Papua New Guinea.

"Then of course the fear set in, when is suddenly became real," Bruce says.
The completion of the 96km through dense rain forest, high the mountains, was a teary and emotional experience for them both. There's no cellphone coverage, no power, and no
Ubers to get you out when it becomes too much.

"It has to be a Kiwi thing, surely. The decision to take on Everest was relatively easy after we survived Kokoda," Bruce says, but the journey from start to finish was a huge challenge for the pair.

"The lack of oxygen, altitude sickness, and the real threat of having to eat another Dal bhat was tough, and of course the exhausting days of early mornings and relatively late nights. But we're both left with lifetime memories," he says.

Melissa adds that taking on extreme experiences with a family member strengthens that relationship like nothing else as it is raw, and you can't hide from who you are. Their next adventure is already in the planning. It's climbing Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.