One year ago Whanganui woman Paula Johnson determined to turn her life around.

Now, thanks to generous donations from the community she is one step closer to achieving her dream.

Since February last year the mother-of-seven has made it her mission to run the Great Wall of China marathon along with a team of Kiwis led by Doug Healy.

Preparing for her mighty marathon, she lost 42 kilograms in weight and raised $3000 for the trip - but as of 10 days ago she still needed $2500 to get to China.


"All I can do is pray," she said at the time.

But since her story appeared in the Chronicle, Paula's Givealittle page has received over 100 donations totalling over $3000 dollars - and yesterday she was handed a $1000 donation by Whanganui hair salon Just Cuts.

"I just can't believe it - the response has been massive," she said.

When she decided to make her story known she was afraid how some of the public might respond.

"I don't think there's been any negative feedback, which was something I was afraid of. That would have destroyed me, but there wasn't even one."

Instead, messages of encouragement sprawl the page.

"I read them all the time - they mean so much to me."

Individuals struggling with weight loss and drug addiction found inspiration in Paula's story.


"I'm actually going to meet one of them ... she just needs someone to talk to."

Now she has all the funding she needs for the trip - plus a little extra to see some of the sights with her teammates - she said: "I can't thank everybody enough."

Just Cuts owners Laurie and Paul Broomhall saw Paula's story on TV3 news show The Project.

"On top of her personal story which is pretty amazing, I just thought it was so good for Whanganui ... that's why we want to do this," Mrs Broomhall said.

And talking to the Just Cuts team has also changed the way Paula feels about hairdressers.

"My hair was absolutely destroyed my about 23 years ago - it's now a fear of mine.
"It is a long story but I wanted to be blonde and she just used too much and when I got
home my hair was snapping like elastic."

The Just Cuts husband-and-wife duo say they will give Paula a trim before her trip with a promise that history will not repeat itself.

The team have also given her two pairs of running shoes with help from Rebel Sport.
Paula says any money left after the trip will be spent by the Grace Foundation to help the homeless of Whanganui.