A pair of red band gumboots hang in the air, pegged to a line on a sunny blue-skied and slightly cloudy day.

That is the scene painted by Okoia resident Michelle Sigley, who is aiming to raise funds for Gumboot Friday by putting the painting up for auction.

Gumboot Friday is an initiative of I Am Hope which is backed by New Zealander of the Year Mike King's Key to Life Charitable Trust.

It was created to address mental health issues for youth which is a cause Sigley has a vested interest in


"I lost my boyfriend when I was 14 to suicide, so it's a bit of a sore spot," she says.

"I can't describe what it does to someone at that age. I think at that age you already blame yourself for lots of things anyway. It's a typical New Zealand attitude."

Michelle Sigley hopes for a brighter future with a decreased suicide rate by the time her son Vann Sigley is a teenager.
Michelle Sigley hopes for a brighter future with a decreased suicide rate by the time her son Vann Sigley is a teenager.

In 2018, 137 young Kiwis killed themselves and an estimated 3500 others attempted to end their lives.

Gumboot Day takes place on Friday April 5 and participants will put on a pair of gumboots, donate a gold coin and go for a walk.

Sigley said the whole idea is that walking in gumboots is hard.

"Gumboots are heavy and they're often covered in mud. That's how you feel when you're depressed and down and life's too hard.

"It's a great idea because people can get the help that they want without actually asking for it, especially young people because it's hard for them to ask for help."

The funding will provide free counselling for Kiwi kids eligible to attend primary, intermediate or secondary school, including those that have been expelled or suspended.


Sigley worked on the oil canvas painting for approximately two months, it is still drying before the auction closes at 9.30pm this Thursday and the current bid is $100.

Originally from Auckland, Sigley studied fine art at Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design before moving to Okoia, five kilometres east of Whanganui when she was 22.

She is a full time artist that does tattoos in her studio, is the stepmother to a teenager and is also raising two young children.

"I like to encourage my kids to do whatever they want. I'd love for the suicide statistics to drop down before the little kids are teenagers," Sigley said.

"I wish 14-year-old me could have seen me now, where I am with my beautiful kids and living my life. The hard times always pass."

As part of Gumboot Friday, Kiwibank started a Gumboot Up NZ campaign with I Am Hope on Facebook and it went viral.

Kiwibank encouraged users to add an I Am Hope frame to their profile picture and in return they would donate $1 to the Gumboot Friday account.

Kiwibank hit their target of $50,000 in less than five days and over 185,000 users added the I am Hope frame, so they doubled up and contributed an extra $50,000.

Gumboot Friday funds can be donated through internet banking, at Kiwibank branches, at participating retailers and through the I Am Hope Givealittle page.