A group of Hawke's Bay athletes launched their campaign to compete on the world stage at the International Taekwon-Do World Championships in Argentina last night.
Fifteen special needs students and seven mainstream athletes from the Hawke's Bay International Taekwon-Do Federation were selected to enter the competition, which begins in July next year.
Instructor Ben Evans took five students last year but said he wanted to take more there as the New Zealanders "shined" on the stage.
One of these students to shine was Aidan McCance, who was diagnosed with mild to severe autism when he was just two-and-a-half-years-old.
Mr McCance won a gold medal and mother Donna Carter said it was the first time he had stood there with a natural smile on his face.
"Ben has the ability to connect with these kids and bring out the best in them, I have watched and seen Aidan grow."
Ms Carter said the sport had given him confidence, understanding, tolerance and patience.
He has been able to experience things he would never have even dreamed of.
"He would never have gone to London if it wasn't for this and now we are getting ready for Argentina, it is so good for him."
"He is really determined and he tries so hard as he knows what he can achieve."
Mr Evans said a lot of these guys hadn't been on a plane before so to get them over there to compete on a global scale was huge and meant a lot to them.
The students will be involved in three different sections at the world championships and Mr Evans said one part involved the mainstream athletes teaming up with the special needs athletes.
"They will create a routine together so is a real mixed effort and it is cool them doing something together."
Last night potential sponsors and supporters of the team gathered at the Globe Theatre in Ahuriri with a demonstration by the students, an auction run by Simon Tremain and speeches by David Elliott and Ms Carter.
Mr Evans for the first time broke 10 roof tiles in an attempt to encourage sponsors to get on board. He needs about $75,000 to get all team members across to Argentina, which he said was a big task but was definitely doable.
Last year the team came back with three golds, three silvers and three bronzes and Mr Evans wanted to improve on that next year.
"I want to bring back even more medals next time and I know they will be able to do it, we just need the community support."
Mr Evans wanted to thank David Trim and the Rotary Club of Ahuriri Sunrise for putting on the event and supporting the team through the start of their campaign.
For more information and to donate through their Givealittle visit: specialneedstaekwondo.nz.