Children at Durie Hill School in Whanganui were excited to greet a cavalcade of tractors arriving at their gate.
The Feelings for Life (FFL) Tractor Trek, led by a Humvee and including a red Postman Pat replica mail van, is making its way to various central North Island destinations to raise awareness and funds for mental health.
Cat Levine, who founded FFL, would usually spend time inside the school to present a Think and Be Me programme to children but Covid-19 restrictions mean that school visits have been adapted to outdoor meet-and-greets followed by online presentations.
"It's not the same as face-to-face but we want to keep spreading the word about the need for children's emotional literacy," she said.
"Kids, no matter their social, geographic or economic circumstances, find a sense of stability and comfort when they understand their feelings."
The trek is a family affair and includes Levine's dad Phil Aish, who initiated the trek to raise funds for Hospice, and her sister Jo Watt who is the official trek photographer driving the Postman Pat van.
Levine was involved with her father's Great NZ Tractor Treks where 15 tractors drove from Bluff to Cape Reinga to support Hospice in 2016 and 2018. In 2020 she partnered with mental health campaigner Mike King and her dynamic presentation style, along with her bright pink hair, proved a hit with students at schools they visited.
All three family members and some of the other drivers are based in Auckland and completed a Northland trek last year.
The first leg of the 2022 trek from Oakura to Hāwera was cancelled due to bad weather on Monday but the fleet travelled from Hāwera on Tuesday, stopping at Kakaramea and Waverley schools and driving by Westmere Primary School.
Retired Whanganui school teacher Gillie Brown had joined the trek in her Ford tractor.
"I've been on a few treks and drove my old David Brown tractor to Bluff once," she said.
"I'm well prepared for most weather and you really enjoy the scenery on a tractor. We drive down some lovely back roads through the bush and you can smell all the lovely smells."
The trek visited Fordell School before heading to Mangaweka, Feilding, Waipukurau, Napier, Pukekahu, Ohakune, Taumarunui, Whangamomona and Inglewood, visiting schools and meeting with Rotary Clubs along the way.
Rotary was sponsoring the trek and Levine said the plan was to gather as much awareness and funding support as possible to keep providing free mental health support to children in New Zealand schools.
Visit feelingsforlife.org to find out more.