The dream of a talented teenage athlete born in Taiwan to represent his adopted country of New Zealand at an elite international boxing championship in Russia in September will now be realised thanks to the kindness of family, friends and strangers.
Kerikeri's Kyle Chen was last month named in the eight-strong New Zealand team to attend 2015 AIBA Junior World Boxing Championships in Russia in September.
To fundraise for the event, the 14-year-old Kerikeri High School student and his father, Murray Potts, set up Give a Little page, to raise the $6000 required for each member of the New Zealand junior boxing team to attend the event. Both Potts and son were blown away when that goal was surpassed late last week and was approaching the $8000 mark.
"In terms of the money it's been amazing," said Potts, adding Chen was the first one in the New Zealand team to reach the funding target. He also noted the fundraising campaign had been very well promoted in the town of Wairoa in Northern Hawke's Bay where Chen grew up, and where his mother currently lives. Potts was particularly impressed with a one-off donation of $4000 which came from a group of four inter-related families from Wairoa.
"When I saw the money on the Give a Little page I said 'it can't be true!' ... I don't even know these people. I have since found out that some of them are Kiwi expats living overseas," said Potts, who understood several major donors had come to the party after reading the article promoting Chen's cause in the local Wairoa newspaper, probably online.
However, the bulk of that single, massive donation came from Rawinia and Keith Muir, who hail from Wairoa but currently live in Malaysia. The heart-warming message the pair had left with that donation read, "We are so happy and very proud to help support you representing New Zealand to compete in the upcoming tournament in Russia and we know that you will try your very best to accomplish a promising pathway set for your future. Enjoy the moment, have fun and safe journey!!"
Kyle's mum also raised $857 alone from a sausage sizzle and cake stall in Wairoa which the aforementioned paper, the Wairoa Star, had promoted as Chen's campaign began to snowball. And there was further good news when Chen was formally made a New Zealand citizen at a private ceremony at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds on Monday, July 20.
Potts said the realisation Chen would need to be made a citizen in order to be allowed to represent New Zealand dawned almost as soon as the initial excitement of hearing he had made the national squad for Russia had died down. The Internal Affairs Department had proved very obliging in following up on a request to fast-track the paperwork, which ensured Chen's bid for world domination remained on course.
"The whole thing was just wonderful, what Internal Affairs did for this. They had the whole thing done in a month, it normally takes four months."
National selection confirmed, funding secured and citizenship granted, the current national champion and two-time Golden Gloves winner is now focusing on his build-up towards the AIBA Junior World Boxing Championships in St Petersburg by doing what he does best: boxing.
Last weekend, Chen fought Rakai Kirkwood - who is also in the New Zealand squad for Russia - at a Super City boxing event, eventually losing via a unanimous decision over three two-minute rounds.
"Kyle [still] boxed well," said his father, adding that Kirkwood, although normally in a lighter division, was an accomplished opponent - a three-time national champion and multiple Golden Gloves winner with over 60 fights under his belt.
Over the weekend just gone, Chen fought in Taupo on Saturday, and Rotorua on Sunday and will head to another tournament in Queenstown this weekend.
"We would never have been able to travel to these three tournaments without this surplus [crowdfunding account]," said Potts. "It's just the sort of preparation Kyle needs on his pathway to Saint Petersburg!"