It was full steam ahead in more ways than one for child illness support group Heart Kids Hawke's Bay as it was hosted by the miniature train buffs of the Hawke's Bay Model Engineering Society today (Sunday) at Anderson Park, Napier.

With about 25 children already enjoying the rides with their families, support service co-ordinator Adrianne Galvin had just come from setting up the organisation's first office, which also has its first employee in 15-hours-a-week support worker Sue Lewis.

But also showing signs of getting on the right track was the train gang itself, operating five engines with drivers from as young as a trainee at 11 to veterans in their 70s, overwhelmed by the response also from members of the public as it tries to infuse new young blood to keep the amusement icon in operation.

There were more than 200 passengers for the day, including more than 160 paying public who also rode the trains during the late morning and early afternoon.


"More than we've had for quite a while," said ticket-seller Brian Larkin, a stalwart who had 14-year-old grandson Alex also along for the ride, now a driver and engine owner after growing up with Sunday mornings and trains at the park.

It was a special time for Heart Kids, which serves about 180 families in the Hawke's Bay-Gisborne region, relying a lot on its growing fundraising capacity, including its annual street appeal from Waipukurau to Gisborne on June 7-8.

The organisation tries to stage gatherings at least once a month as it supports children and families through their ordeals, which sometimes includes bereavement.

There's no Government funding and a committee, having got the organisation itself back on track after a period of near-recess, has taken on the responsibility of financing the work, while Lewis gets on with supporting the families.

Collectors will be at 22 locations during the appeal, with support coming from Napier Host Lions, Aon Insurance Brokers, EIT, D.T.S Epic Pathways, Parkinsons New Zealand, and Māori wardens.