A newly-registered Hawke's Bay charity has become a "bit of a backbone" for Napier resident Jude Wakely and her family.

The Acorn Project provides support services for young cancer sufferers aged between 12 and 24 and was formed following the restructure of CanTeen NZ in December 2018.

It was awarded registered charity status on May 10.

One of the 55 members it has signed up for its services since February 2019 is the Wakely family.


Jude Wakely's 18 year-old son Lachlan was diagnosed with cancer when he was four-and-a-half years old.

Since then he's had brain tumours removed in two separate operations at Starship Hospital.

"He was diagnosed when he was four and a half years old. They took out the tumour but they couldn't get it all out," Jude says.

"It grew back and when he was 11 they did surgery again and removed it. This was done in Starship, Auckland."

Because of Lachlan's diagnosis the family initially started going to Child Cancer Hawke's Bay for support.

"Then when he turned 13, we transitioned to CanTeen, Hawke's Bay where we met Kerrie (founder of The Acorn Project).

"We were with them until November last year, until CanTeen restructured and Hawke's Bay fell through the gap."

Their strong relationship with Kerrie Waby, who until December 2018, was the youth support co-ordinator for CanTeen Hawke's Bay branch, meant they followed her to The Acorn Project.


"They provide face-to-face contact which is huge, it helps in relationship building. Kerrie and Lachie get along like a house on fire.

"Lachie never felt like a normal kid, and Acorn Project gives him the opportunity to live normally. There's a group of about 15 kids there and when they get together they shine.

"The project looks after the entire family, not just the child."

Lachlan has three sisters and two of them are already part of the project.

"Emily, 16, was part of CanTeen and is now part of Acorn.

"The male component of the project is also very important. Lachlan is not a typical boy, he's very much an indoors kid.

"My husband likes to be out and about so their relationship does get stressed. But it (the cancer) has been forced upon them.

"The Acorn Project does things for the men like barbecues and stuff."

She says having Waby, who has a world of knowledge, in the background helps making her life less stressful.

"Kerrie gets Lachie- she's been a bit of a backbone for us.

"My husband is the main breadwinner and he's been a rock as well."

Kerrie says having someone to talk to when life gets hard and the future is uncertain can be a lifeline.

"Together we can put in support, introduce other agencies when needed and provide the wrap around support for the members holistic wellbeing."