A Waikanae woman's 90th birthday wasn't about herself — it was about creating an extra special memorable day out for a group of children she hadn't met.

Joan Hodgins self-funded a day out for a group of Kenakena School children who were in need a bit of a break or to recognise achievements.

Joan was a successful businesswoman who overcame adversity and disability to become a high achiever.

The trip, called Joan's Big Day Out, took place today involving a large group of selected children and a handful of school staff.


It started with the children boarding a double-decker bus at the school and driving to Kapiti Coast Airport where they enjoyed a scenic flight with Sounds Air including around Kāpiti Island.

The bus then took them to Wellington Zoo where the children participated in a special programme organised by zoo staff.

Then it was over to the Chipmunks Playland in Lyall Bay where they had a party lunch with cake and listened to some words of encouragement from Joan.

Joan approached school principal Bruce McDonald following a presentation he made on the school's dyslexia programme at the Women's Probus Club of Waikanae.

"She told me she wanted to 'throw a party for some children'.

"Instead of throwing money at a big 90th birthday party for herself she wanted to 'put the money into doing something with the kids'.

"I said 'okay who are you thinking of?' and she told me a bit about her background.

"She wanted to do something special for children with disabilities or challenges.

"I said we would make it happen.

"Joan is a great person."

The school created a list of children who fitted Joan's criteria — all parents/caregivers gave their permission for the trip — some had tears.

Speaking before the trip, Joan hoped the day would be a "wonderful happy day" for the children.

She praised the school for helping make her wish come true.

"I couldn't have asked for a better organisation to put it together.

"The work they, especially office manager Lynda Ramage, has done has been incredible."

She recalled her school years and her struggles with dyslexia where a headmaster spent hours with her before deciding "well that's it".

"You didn't know a lot about it [dyslexia].

"Fortunately I had a fantastic memory and that's what gave me away, or made it for me, because I could read a story, and if I didn't know the word, I substituted it and made a very good story.

"Figures were good, I could do them with no trouble, it was only the words."

Joan also spent "two and half years in a plastic cast after smashing myself up in an argument with a horse and a car" during her college years.

She didn't let dyslexia or physical disability hold her back and became a director of a couple of large companies and owned the successful House of Fleur as well as Focal Point fashion shops in Upper Hutt.

Joan hoped the day out encouraged others to do the same to enrich the lives of children and inspire them to overcome challenge and adversity to succeed.

"I'd like to think it might because really, when your family has grown up, and made their life, do they need that money from you?"

The day out cost $10,000 and there was some left over for the school kitty.