A Wellington teen who impressed Prince Harry with her kind-hearted initiative to help others chase their sporting dreams has won further accolades.

Maia Mariner, 14, met the prince during his tour last year, at a Government House reception where she told him about her initiative collecting and distributing sneakers for kids in need.

Prince Harry told her it was a great idea and that she should expand it, father Kirk Mariner said.

The royal told Maia projects like hers needed to be embraced and supported.

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Maia started brainstorming the idea with her parents when she was just 12, after realising some kids couldn't participate in sports while others struggled to keep up while playing without the right shoes.

"I've been playing basketball for a while so to see that not everyone has equal opportunities, it just really hit home," the Island Bay girl said.

Maia Mariner (right) met Prince Harry at a reception at Government House last year. Photo / Mark Tantrum
Maia Mariner (right) met Prince Harry at a reception at Government House last year. Photo / Mark Tantrum

"Those who couldn't participate just looked left out and sad, and that makes everyone else sad.

"I came home after training after noticing it and told them about what I saw, and they explained that this is a reality for a lot of people," she said.

"I think my dad was the one who said 'well, you can talk about it, or you can make a difference'. I went to my room and thought about that for the rest of the night."

Maia started thinking about solutions, and last year set up Lazy Sneakers, a non-profit organisation that collects donated sneakers and distributes them to children in the Wellington region.

So far they have collected 1100 pairs of new and used sneakers and distributed nearly 800.

Maia sometimes goes to schools herself to help with distribution.

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"We lay all the shoes out and the kids come out of class during the break and they get to choose which pair they want. I'm usually helping them with finding what size they are, which shoes they like, which colours they like."

It was "nice to see the smiles on their faces when they receive them".

Some kids were able to take extra pairs home for their siblings too.

"They just feel really cool that they can bring home a new pair of sneakers."

Now Maia is being recognised for her work in the GirlBoss Awards, sponsored by Trade Me.

Head of Trade Me's data and insights, Dr Kathryn Hempstalk, was a judge for the awards this year, and said they were about "celebrating the up-and-comers, the innovators and the bold young women shaping the future of New Zealand".

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"We got involved with the GirlBoss Awards because we wanted to recognise trailblazing young Kiwi women like Maia who are creating change in their communities and encourage them to keep striving and working hard," she said.

"We think what Maia is doing with Lazy Sneakers is incredible and it's great to see an inspiring young woman doing such amazing things for the community at just 14 years old.

"Maia is an emerging leader and a young Kiwi to watch."

Maia said she had a strong support network that helped her get the organisation in place.

"I just really hope that we can continue to spread our message that everyone deserves to play, participate, and reach their full potential."

Go to the website lazysneakers.co.nz or follow them on Facebook or Instagram.

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