Two years ago the Pulotu family were struggling to pay bills alongside financing their children's sporting hobbies.
When it came to buying training gear or paying sports fees, Margrette Pulotu would have to sacrifice paying the power, internet or water bills.
"It was tough because it was either pay the bills or my son would be playing for weeks with holes in his shoes. If I couldn't get their rugby fees paid then they would have to sit out for games," she said.
"It was quite stressful financially because there is only one of us working... [and we have] two kids who play not just club rugby, but also school.
"It was really hard but I wouldn't stop. I will just keep supporting them and pushing them because it's what they love," she said.
Lovely Pulotu, 17, and David Pulotu, 16, started playing rugby as young children.
Now as teenagers, Lovely plays union for Auckland Marist women's and development teams, and David plays league for the under-16 Auckland Marist team. They also both play for Mount Albert Grammar School.
"Rugby is pretty much all my life. I really love rugby and have grown up playing it alongside my little brother," Lovely said.
"My parents have sacrificed so much. Dad and mum have to take me to trainings all the time, so they sacrifice their own time to make sure I am getting the training I need and to the places I need to be."
This sacrifice became a little easier for the family after they heard about Variety Children's Charity, and Lovely and David were granted Gold Heart Scholarships.
Each year these scholarships are granted to around 20 talented Kiwi kids - who already excel in the arts, sports or education.
They are awarded financial support of up to $5000 - which is available for up to three years - to help children who are physically or financially challenged fulfill their dreams.
This could include assistance with tuition fees, personal development, coaching, and the purchase of training equipment, travel or accommodation.
This year will be the second that Lovely and David have received the scholarship. Mother Margrette speaks about the moment they were accepted:
"It came in the mail and I was real nervous, so when I opened it to see that both of them got accepted – I was just shaking. It was like I had won the lottery," she said.
"I just felt a weight on my shoulders had lifted. It's the fact that I don't have to say 'Lovely can you wait because I have to get David's shoes first?' - because I have to save just to get one pair."
Margrette said the financial assistance has given her peace of mind.
"The grind is just daily so if anything the help and support from Variety just means I can get them to where they want to be in the future.
"It means a lot because all parents want to see their children succeed. It's not just about playing sport, but it's seeing them grow doing what they love. It makes me think they can go further and that is what I want for them."
Margrette said she has also seen a change in her children's attitudes since they received the scholarships.
"I think they play even harder now because they understand that they shouldn't take for granted what they have been given.
"These things don't come easily and not a lot of people are in the position they are to have received the scholarship, so they know to go even harder at what they are doing."
Both teenagers are striving to make a career out of their sporting success.
Lovely is an official Auckland Rugby Referee, and says her ultimate goal is to play for the Black Ferns.
"I shout out to Variety for giving me this opportunity and the scholarship that I have so I can venture out and be who I am," she said.
"It's helped me push out and achieve my goals and reach, hopefully, the top. It's been such a great experience, with so many great opportunities that they have given me."
'They can't afford to play sport, which I think is really sad.'
Former All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry believes sport in New Zealand has become too expensive.
"It's ridiculous – sporting fees, gear, clothing – parents can't afford it all so they can't play sport," he said.
"Particularly in the winter when it's cold, they need extra clothing, shoes, maybe a raincoat – so they can't afford to play sport, which I think is really sad.
"This country shouldn't allow this to happen. We must be better than that," he said.
Sir Henry said the funding provided by Variety was "fabulous" and gave kids the opportunity to embrace sport.
"They have hundreds of kids they are supporting to allow them to play sport, but there are thousands still not playing," he said.
"Sport does so much for these kids; there is the enjoyment factor and the friendship factor. It also builds resilience and humility – which is a marvellous Kiwi trait.
"It's not about talent, it's about giving all those kids an opportunity to play sport because it builds their character."
'They have opportunities just like all the other kids.'
Variety Chief Executive Officer Lorraine Taylor said one in four children grow up in families that are struggling to make ends meet.
"Having access to a scholarship, whether it be a Gold Hearts Scholarship or a Have a Go Scholarship - where we provide funding for kids simply to try a sport - means they have opportunities just like all the other kids," she said.
"Because it's expensive; petrol is expensive to get to training, it's hard for families to fund some of the costs around sports – so our scholarships provide those for individual children."
Taylor said such funding has allowed children like Lovely and David to achieve their goals.
"I think that Lovely and David are just such amazing young people. They are super talented and thanks to the Variety Gold Heart Scholarship they have got the opportunity to participate and to be able to strive to achieve their goals.
"This doesn't happen without their amazing family that goes along and supports them every day in the things that they are doing, and if Variety can provide a helping hand - that makes all the difference."
• Go to variety.org.nz to learn more about Variety's scholarships.