The Countdown Kids Hospital Appeal has been launched with a powerful haka from the Whangārei Primary School kapa haka group at the Child Health Centre in Whangārei.
The face of the appeal for 2019 is Northlander Zane Williams, aged 4-and-a-half, who was at the launch to help cut the cake.
Zane is one of five New Zealanders diagnosed with a rare genetic variant that affects how his brain works and because of this he has been diagnosed with global developmental delay, intellectual impairment and autism.
Zane's mother, Nicole Alach, said she first came to the Child Health Centre just after his first birthday when he was still not yet crawling. A blood test revealed the deletion on his 12th chromosome, and from there they have had intense, engaged wrap-around services from the centre.
Alach said it takes more than a village to raise a child with special needs and Zane's therapists have taught him to walk, use a spoon, to play and communicate his basic needs.
"The team here all mean so much to Zane, our extended family and me. The mahi done here has helped so much to improve all of our quality of life. They have been there to support us in hard times and celebrations also. Always offering a hug, or more practical support when needed, like chasing him down the road if he got away from me."
Last year Alach was looking for a change in career and saw an administration support position at Child Health Centre advertised, which she knew straight away was where she needed to be and she now works with the team.
The role can be quite emotionally challenging for her when she sees children Zane's age only now looking to access services for their developmental delays, but she said she knows once they have finally connected with the service they will be offered the very best care.
Alach is proud to have Zane as the face of the appeal because she says it goes a long way to helping families with children suffering from a range of illnesses and conditions, and it is very much appreciated.
The Northland District Health Board child health services manager, Yvonne Hunter, said the DHB's wish list for 2019 includes new play equipment for the Whangārei Hospital Whānau House.
Paul Maxwell, acting group manager of Countdown, attended the launch and said he hoped the passion the kapa haka group had for their performance would be reflected by the community's support for the appeal, which runs until October 27.
Since the appeal first began in 2007, Countdown customers and staff have raised $12.8 million to support thousands of sick Kiwi kids and their families around the country.
Northland DHB's child, youth, maternal, public and oral health general manager, Jeanette Wedding, told the audience that over those 12 years the DHB has received $860,000 of those funds.