10 years ago the Hawke's Bay Community came together to build Little Elms in six days.

The complex, which provides accommodation to families with children in hospital, was built in six days, with $1.8 million needed to build it all donated.

Over its 10 years, it has housed over 32,000 guests, including Sarah Charteris, who stayed there twice due to the premature birth of her second daughter, and her son.

"I had pregnancy complications and ended up having our daughter 10 weeks early, and it was sort of all, unexpected, and caught of guard.

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"We live in Wairoa so we are a good two hours from the hospital, and at that time I also had a 2-year-old daughter."

"Nina, our baby was in SCBU (Special Care Baby Unit) for about eight weeks.

"My husband had to keep working because we own a business up here in Wairoa, and my daughter went to Gisborne to live with my parents, so we were all sort of apart.

"But Little Elms meant that at weekends we could all be together."

Two years later, the family was back after their son was also born prematurely.

"I almost felt at ease when I was flying down in the middle of the night, knowing I was about to have this second baby early.

"I thought in the back of my mind, it's perfect I can just ring Ann, I can just go it Little Elms, it will be fine."

From left - Central Hawke's Bay mayor Alex Walker, Hastings deputy mayor Tania Kerr, Road Transport Forum NZ CEO Ken Shirley, Jenny Shirley, Ken Foote (Hawke's Bay DHB) and Dot Foote.
From left - Central Hawke's Bay mayor Alex Walker, Hastings deputy mayor Tania Kerr, Road Transport Forum NZ CEO Ken Shirley, Jenny Shirley, Ken Foote (Hawke's Bay DHB) and Dot Foote.

Ann Cooper, the administration and finance manager at Little Elms, said families felt very blessed to be able to stay there.

"They've got a safe, secure place, it's only walking distance, over the road from the hospital."

Hospital security is only a phone call away if parents need to be walked over during the night.

Cooper said the anniversary celebrations went off really well, aside from a few moments of bad weather.

"People were reminiscing, those from the early days."

Former children's commissioner Dr Russell Wills, trustee, Robin Bell, trustee, Edina Hilton, and kaumatua Haami Hilton at the anniversary. Photo / Duncan Brown
Former children's commissioner Dr Russell Wills, trustee, Robin Bell, trustee, Edina Hilton, and kaumatua Haami Hilton at the anniversary. Photo / Duncan Brown

Little Elms grew out of a partnership between Hawke's Bay Road Transport Association and the Hawke's Bay Transport fraternity as a whole, and the Hawke's Bay branch of Child Cancer, said Little Elms Charitable Trust Chair Person Ian Emmerson.

"There was intent to build two chalets and an office facility."

By the time of the build, there was enough community support to build six chalets.

"Instead of struggling to fund and build a community project, we were just elated with the support we had."

Emmerson said they were grateful for everyone who had sponsored Little Elms, both at the time of the build and over the years.

"I just, once again, want to thank all the existing sponsors who have helped Little Elms get through the last 10 years."

The anniversary celebrations started with speeches, before Little Elms was opened to the public to have a look.

From the October 6 to 12, 2008, 150 people helped build the complex, from contractors to locals who walked in a picked up a paintbrush.

Little Elms now serves families from across Hawke's Bay, the Chatham Islands, and sometimes other parts of New Zealand.