Bethany Reitsma

Nearly $37,000 has been raised for the family of cancer campaigner Blair Vining, who died yesterday.

Tributes to the man hailed as a champion for New Zealanders facing cancer continue to flood social media. Vining, 39, left behind wife Melissa and two teenage daughters Della-May and Lilly.

Yesterday, a Givealittle page created by Claire Cameron farewelled Vining.

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"Blair's family are comforted to know that he touched the lives of so many and express their deep gratitude for the support they have received from him far and wide."

About 650 people had donated a total $36,631 since the page was set up. On Saturday, tributes and donations were pouring in by the minute, with contributors posting messages of support for the family.

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"Thank you for all you have done for NZ cancer care, Blair was an amazing man," one read.

"Blair and Melissa, you are inspirational New Zealanders. God bless you."

His Facebook page Blair Vining's Epic Journey read: "To people up and down the country, Blair Vining was an extraordinary man: turning his own tragedy into a battle to ensure better cancer care for all New Zealanders.

"But to those who knew him, Blair Vining is extraordinary for different reasons. He was a loving father, husband, dedicated coach and loyal mate."

One Facebook commenter wrote: "Thank you for your legacy Blair…others live longer lives and barely leave anything behind . . . Today is a dark day for New Zealand."

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Another responded: "You will forever be in New Zealanders' hearts, a true legend."

Vining was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer last year and given weeks to live. He was told it was unlikely he would see a specialist before the cancer took over.

But he wasn't going to give in that easily. He and Melissa took a petition for cancer care funding all the way to Parliament.

The petition gathered more than 140,000 signatures and in response the government announced a Cancer Action Plan, including $60 million in funding for cancer medicines through Pharmac, and establishing a Cancer Control Agency with a national director.

His love for rugby was legendary. He was known as the South Island's "biggest Chiefs fan" and was dedicated to his Central Southland First XV team, whom he coached for three years.

In his last months, Blair ticked a few more things off his bucket list. He and Melissa renewed their wedding vows. He played a fundraising game of rugby in Southland for a crowd of 4500, and the game won the Southland Sporting Moment of the Year.

It was hoped the game would become an annual event to raise funds for the Blair Vining Foundation, set up to support up-and-coming young athletes at Southland College.

He was recently nominated for the New Zealander of the Year Award.