A nine-year-old Shannon girl has taken it on herself to raise money for the care and shelter of unwanted animals.
Bear Starstrider was inspired to do a fundraising walk after reading about 12-year-old Wairarapa girl Mindy, who walked 40km to raise money for Gender Minorities Aotearoa recently.
Her mother Willow said Bear liked the idea, but thought she'd start with a shorter and more achievable distance of 20km, and chose HUHA as her benefiting charity.
"She chose HUHA because of her concern for animals who were abandoned or mistreated, and because we knew someone locally who received help from HUHA when their dog was very sick," she said.
"Also, being a relatively local charity was an important factor for her." There was a HUHA shelter in Ōtaki.
Bear had aimed to raise $1000 but fell short of that mark. Willow blamed her own "social media ineptitude" for the shortfall.
"But she is still pleased with what she's achieved and proud of how hard she worked to prepare for and complete the walk," she said.
"She hopes to do another fundraising walk in a year or two over a longer distance."
Bear completed her 20km walk at the weekend in time for lunch in just over four hours.
"We thought our speed would slacken significantly as the kilometres went by, but Bear must have been wearing seven league boots that day."
"It was perfect walking weather, with just a little light drizzle as we were leaving Shannon and neither too hot nor too cold. Leaving home at 8am meant the traffic was light, and a friend met us at the floodgate bridge to slow the traffic for us as we walked over it."
The pair had trained for the walk, but unexpected blisters on the soles of our feet made the last stretch a real test.
"The last couple of kilometres were challenging, but Bear dug deep and found the strength and determination to keep going," she said.
"She kept focusing on how much good the money she was raising would do for HUHA, and that kept her going."
HUHA (helping you help animals) is a charitable trust "dedicated to teaching empathy to the community and providing shelter for animals that struggle to survive in today's disposable culture".