The smile on Poppy McConville's face said it all.

It wasn't because the 9-year-old finished 11th in her age-group at the George Street Normal School cross-country race.

It was because she had been able to compete alongside her fellow pupils in the annual race.

Poppy has severe cerebral palsy and has been in a wheelchair for most of her life. So participating in sporting activities is difficult for her, unless she has a lot of help.


On Monday, that help came from five men who took turns at pushing her wheelchair around the muddy and soggy race track at the North Ground, in Dunedin.

As a vibrant show of support, the team - Croydon Paton, Mark Howard, Matt Bixley, Nick Taylor and Grant Guise - also wore Poppy's favourite colour, pink.

Paton said some of the team had children at the school, and saw a group of teachers push Poppy around the cross-country track last year.

This year, they decided to get involved themselves.

He said the group consisted of ironman athletes, endurance runners and marathon runners, and while the run was mainly about giving Poppy the ride of her life, it was also a good training opportunity for the Great Naseby Water Race, in which they will compete together later this month.

For Poppy's mother, Cherie McConville, it was a day to remember.

"She's an adrenaline junkie. She loves the speed and the wind in her face.

"This means everything to Poppy. Just to be normal and be doing things alongside the other kids. That's all she wants.

"She just wants to be a normal wee girl, and these fellows today allowed her to do that."

McConville said she joined the teachers in helping push Poppy around the race track last year, but this year she was grateful to be able to stand on the sideline and see her daughter's face as she sped around the circuit.

"Those guys gave us a great gift today, not only for Poppy but for us as parents.

"To see the delight and joy on her face was just magic, and hearing her squeal with delight as she was coming past the crowd - just amazing."