A thrilling night of Zorb fun in the dark of the year's longest night has helped raise $650 for the Rotorua Salvation Army.
The Darkest Night event was held at Zorb Rotorua last Saturday night.
Zorb Rotorua sales and marketing manager Anna Rodgers says it is an annual event held every year to celebrate the solstice - the shortest day and they longest night of the year.
She says the event runs night-time Zorb rides and this is the event's third year.
"We have lights on the balls, different coloured lights around the park, and people basically come to ride in the dark and brave the elements."
She says on Saturday night it didn't rain like it was forecast too, and it wasn't too cold either.
"We had 105 people riding, which exceeded our expectations given everything going on."
She says what was different this year was they also had Mitai Māori Village onsite with its new hāngī food truck.
Ten per cent of all the ride and hāngī sales are being donated to Salvation Army Rotorua.
Anna says it was great to see locals and visitors that come through every year, as well as a bunch of new people.
"It's something fun to do on a Saturday night which you can't always do, and we only operate the event once a year. It's always a cool atmosphere."
She says there is warm water in the Zorb balls, it is a bit of a festival atmosphere with music going and fairy lights, and the staff love it because it is something different.
"I think it was important for us to do it this year with all the craziness going on. We have people who look forward to it and we didn't want to miss a year.
"We felt like everyone in New Zealand has been doing it tough, so is there some way we can give back and what is an organisation we know will go back to the community and benefit people in need.
"We've got a fantastic relationship with the Salvation Army team and we do an annual can drive event for them as well.
"It was nice to be able to team up with Mitai Māori Village and they were keen to get involved."
Anna says since Zorb Rotorua reopened after lockdown it has had amazing support from locals.
"We have felt that people are genuinely wanting to support their local businesses and those employing locals, so it feels great we are all working in the same direction.
"And we know that what we put in the Salvation Army is going directly into the Rotorua community and has a direct benefit, so for us it's important to be able to link up with them.
"It gives us that sense of community and it's a fantastic feeling seeing people still coming."
She says Zorb Rotorua will be having the event again next year around the same time, and its annual can drive in December, so watch this space.
Sheena Waerea, Mitai Māori Village sales and marketing, says the event was a success, with 80 hangi pre-purchased predominantly by Rotorua locals who supported The Darkest Night event, and they sold an additional 40 or so on the night.
"While the landscape and world as we know it has changed it has not stopped, we still have the opportunity to help, even if it is just in a small way.
"Mitai's fairly new 'Earth Oven' hangi trailer and joining forces with Zorb Rotorua meant that, despite having radically changed the core operation at Mitai, a unique platform was presented for us to support.
"We are thankful to have been asked and grateful for the opportunity to contribute to a thoughtful initiative."
Salvation Army Rotorua Lieutenant Kylie Overbye says when they heard about this event they felt blessed.
"It's such a wonderful gift of generosity and kindness to go towards supporting our community with the recovery phase we are entering into after lockdown.
"For New Zealand we've done so well to minimise and reduce risk to our country and communities, but to get where we are has been quite a sacrifice to us all financially.
"In these days we're all having to be very measured about how we use our money in order to sustain the longer-term effects yet to be seen."
She says what Salvation Army has seen through Covid-19 consistently is something we are good at here in Rotorua, and that is supporting each other financially through unifying and lifting each other up when hard times come, "and we choose go on the journey together".
"The Darkest Night event is one of the ways this community has rallied together to show its support and unity.We're extremely grateful and proud of this community."
Kylie says the funds raised to help Rotorua Salvation Army will go towards meeting the need that is yet to come as a result of Covid-19.
"Many people received food assistance through lockdown levels 3 and 4 and there is still going to be the need for food assistance for quite some time yet, but it isn't just food
that is needed.
"Many are affected from this crisis and we know that other vital services like psycho-social support and financial mentoring will be needed in the comingmonths as we
recover from this."