Little girls often want to be princesses or a fairies but Katie Reed, who turns 10 today, dreams of breathing easier and gliding effortlessly in graceful, fluid movements.
A mermaid would be perfect but Katie has a lung condition called bronchiectasis which she will have all her life, and which has at times left her gasping for breath.
She plans to have a "pool party" for her birthday and the mermaids theme has inspired a special birthday cake made by Whangarei woman Sandra Boston and delivered to Katie yesterday.
The gift comes courtesy of Operation Sugar, an organisation that provides free custom birthday cakes to seriously ill children in New Zealand.
The not-for-profit company was established in September 2012 and has a large network of amateur and professional bakers donating their time, experience and money to provide cakes. As well as giving a child a specially themed cake, the organisation pays for a professional photographer to take a birthday portrait as a gift for the whole family.
Ms Boston is the owner of Whangarei-based Kiwicakes, a distribution company specialising in cake decorating materials, and a sponsor of Operation Sugar.
Chelsea Sugar is the major sponsor, and the scheme also relies on community grants and donations.
"We'd like to raise awareness about the scheme and let people know this service is available and costs families nothing," Ms Boston said.
The children must be 17 or younger, have a life-threatening medical condition or had frequent or extended hospitalisation within the last two years.
Bronchiectasis has become more common in the last couple of years but the diagnosis for Katie was a long and difficult process, her mother Lisa Reed said.
Katie had seven bouts of pneumonia, multiple lung infections and several trips to hospital over 15 months, from February 2011 to May 2012.
"Once the diagnosis [in August last year] was made it has been very easy to get treatment and we have an amazing team - doctor, paediatrician, respiratory specialist, physiotherapist, Northern Health school teacher - of support and help," Ms Reed said.
Katie has two brothers, Braden, 8, and Charlie, 2, who are not affected by the disease.