A charity set up by a family who lost their cherished 3-year-old to cancer has today made a $95,000 donation to the Ronald McDonald House for a new transplant room opening tomorrow - the day that would have been their son's 10th birthday.
Whakatane Keri and Ryan Topperwien set up the Dream Chaser Foundation in memory of their son Chace. The 3-year-old died in June, 2013, after battling a rare form of Leukaemia.
The room they're funding Auckland's Ronald McDonald House will cater for children who have had a heart, kidney or bone marrow transplant.
Speaking to the Weekend Herald , Keri Topperwien said they planned to make the weekend a celebration of Chace's life, as well as what the charity had achieved.
The Dream Chaser transplant room will be unveiled and the cheque presented at 3pm tomorrow.
The foundation is putting on a dinner today for all of the hundred children and their parents who stay at Ronald McDonald House, with an ice cream station and gifts for the kids.
A crew of volunteers helped orchestrate the festivities - including charity ambassadors Taika Waititi, Pippa Wetzell and musical trio SOL3 MIO.
Keri and Ryan's children, Evie and Zayn, also helped out.
"Because our children have been brought up with us very much in the charity scene, they are super involved," Keri explained.
"They are helping us pick presents and wrapping them, and they're really excited about the weekend."
Zayn, who was five, was "very aware" of Chace's memory, Keri said, and often asked questions about his older brother.
Fundraising towards a transplant room for Ronald McDonald House had been a goal since the couple set the foundation up.
Keri said they'd been putting money aside bit-by-bit, while maintaining the other services it provides.
The foundation offers financial help - travel and accommodation costs as well as vouchers towards petrol and groceries - to families with a child suffering from cancer.
"We know first-hand the financial hardships you can go through when you have to tend to a very sick child," Keri said.
"We have a special fund where we give $500 grants for things like exceptionally high winter heating bills or unexpected costs."
This extended to assistance for children in palliative care, with funding on offer to grant the last wishes of young patients - whether this was a holiday or a special gift.
The Topperweins also offered the families emotional support to parents and kids who've had their lives tipped upside down by cancer.
"We've experienced the same life-changing experience that our families have," Keri said.
A big focus of the charity was to raise awareness around the need for bone marrow donations.
Chace had needed a bone marrow transplant - to clear out his cancerous marrow and replace it with someone else's healthy marrow - to give him a second shot at life.
But they couldn't find him a match in time for this to be possible.
"But because he was Māori, his chances of finding a match dropped dramatically," Keri said.
"If you're Pākehā you've got a much bigger pool of donors to find a match with. But if you're Māori, Pacific Islander or any other ethnic minority group then your chances are much, much lower. Not enough of that demographic donate their bone marrow."
Keri said their push through the charity to encourage people to become a bone marrow donor was the most successful thing they did.
"Some of our donors that we've encouraged have been called up and have been a match for a child - then has gone on to donate their bone marrow."
"It's literally saving lives," she said.