Eight-year-old Ben Styles is similar to other boys his age: he dreams of being a fireman, looks up to his big brother and loves his iPad.
Ben has cerebral palsy (CP): he is still in the process of learning to walk, but he is determined to succeed.
In a heartwarming show of support, his entire school - 180 Pukekohe East pupils and teachers - are participating in STEPtember to help Ben and the 7000 other New Zealanders with CP.
STEPtember is a fresh, fun, fitness initiative designed to encourage Kiwis to be active with friends while raising funds for the Cerebral Palsy Society of New Zealand.
Teams of four are encouraged to take 10,000 steps per day for 28 days, and the challenge is not limited to walking. There are more than 40 activities to choose from to complete the daily distance, including cycling, swimming and yoga, and activities for people with disabilities.
Pedometers are provided to measure each person's progress and the team's cumulative results can be followed online.
STEPtember already operates in 10 countries, but this is the first year New Zealand has taken part and national manager Shelly Reilly is delighted with the interest shown to date. "Currently, we have 6000 New Zealanders signed up. We have been so overwhelmed we had to order an extra shipment of pedometers to keep up with demand. Before we even start stepping we have raised over $100,000."
Pukekohe East principal Merilles Nicholls plans to integrate STEPtember into many aspects of the school's curriculum, such as maths and the school-wide fitness programme.
Debbie Robinson, of Fisher and Paykel Finance, believes schools aren't the only organisations that could look at STEPtember as an opportunity. The average office worker in New Zealand takes just 3000 steps a day, and Robinson believes corporates can benefit enormously from a commitment to wellness in the workplace.
"We have 34 teams registered [for STEPtember] and there is a real buzz around the office as people work out strategies to ensure they reach their daily targets, such as planning walking meetings and before and after work group exercise sessions. We have a strong wellness focus at Fisher & Paykel Finance, and some of the benefits we've seen over the last few years include increased engagement and reduced absenteeism."
STEPtember ambassador Lee-Anne Wann - Vodafone Warriors nutritionist and TV host - will be providing health and training tips and recipes throughout the challenge.
Wann believes "small things truly make for great changes", and sees STEPtember as a fabulous opportunity to grab some friends and start moving this spring.