This week, the Herald is launching a campaign to find 200 sponsors for children whose parents cannot afford to buy them school uniforms, stationery and other basics to start the school year.

When the school bell rings this year, young Niko Brown will be packed and ready - with a bag on his back, uniform and all the stationery he needs.

The 5-year-old has secured a sponsor who will help him purchase the necessary equipment and supplies, including a school uniform, he needs when he heads back to the classroom early next month.

Niko is among hundreds of children linked to Variety - the Children's Charity.

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It is running a Back To School Campaign and calling on generous Kiwis to donate or sign up to be a sponsor to help needy Kiwi youngsters get the supplies they need before school starts.

The aim is to get sponsorships for each of the 240 children on the charity's waiting list before term one begins.

Niko, his brother Eruwera, 8, and their dad Daniel Brown, 37, shared their story in today's Herald.

"It is overwhelming and at this time I still don't know what to say. All the support has been amazing,'' the solo father said.

"I just don't know how to say it anymore. That Niko's got a sponsorship - it's all overwhelming.

Solo dad Daniel Brown says his two sons Eruwera, 8 and Niko Brown, 5, wanted to be builders when they are older. Photo / Michael Craig
Solo dad Daniel Brown says his two sons Eruwera, 8 and Niko Brown, 5, wanted to be builders when they are older. Photo / Michael Craig

"It's taken a whole load off my shoulders - to know they've got the stuff to attend school.''

Variety chief Lorraine Taylor said the charity had received such an overwhelming response to its campaign today that the website had crashed.

"Just this morning, our website received so much traffic that our system was unable to keep up with the demand.

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"[It] demonstrates how passionate and kind-hearted many New Zealanders are in wanting to ensure the Kiwi kids on our waiting list start school confident with a uniform and supplies,'' she said.

"I would like to personally thank each and every one of our supporters for their generosity and patience today.''

'THEY'RE ABLE TO DREAM AND NOT WORRY'

Niko, who started at Otara's Bairds Mainfreight Primary School late last year, received a kickstart from the Addenbrooke Foundation's School Start First Impressions programme, which helps youngsters transition from daycare to primary school.

The kits they provide to pupils have special items inside them - including a birthday cake, a school bag, lunch box, drink bottle, uniform and other school supplies as well as paying the first year's school donation.

Brown said that had been a huge help to their family when Niko finished kindergarten.

Speaking about the School Start First Impressions initiative, he said: "They also do amazing work.''

While that helped get Niko started at school, Variety would now be able to help with ongoing costs which would arise this year.

Brown, who is studying engineering full-time, said that as a father, all he wanted to see was his sons enjoying life.

He said his boys wanted to be builders when they are older.

"I think that's what Variety provides for kids like mine.

"They're able to dream and not have to worry.''

**To donate, visit: www.variety.org.nz