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A lasting gift - the charity supporting young people through illness and grief

Facing a rise in the number of young people suffering from anxiety and depression, one national charity is doubling down on its commitment to offer free one-to-one therapy and support to those affected by serious illness or grief.


“It can have a huge impact on a young person to be able to talk to someone who understands or can help,” says Sasha Douglas.


She knows first-hand the benefits of counselling, after losing her mother when she was just 18 years old.


“A friend encouraged me to get help. I was put in touch with Kenzie’s Gift. It helped change my life” says the 25-year-old.


“Seeing a therapist was the best thing that could happen at that time.”

Sasha Douglas


Kenzie’s Gift was established in 2008, named after its founder Nic Russell’s daughter Kenzie, who lost her battle with cancer, aged just 3.


“Our programmes aim to give children and young people the coping mechanisms they need to deal with anxiety, grief and loss,” says Nic.


They offer their services nationwide, with most areas having access to in person support and rural areas being supported via telehealth where appropriate.

"Our programmes aim to give young people the coping mechanisms they need to deal with anxiety, grief and loss"

Nic Russell, Kenzie's Gift founder



Fundraising is a constant challenge.


“It costs $2,160 for Kenzie’s Gift to provide a young person with 12 sessions with a therapist and support them through what is a very difficult time” says Nic.


The ANZ Staff Foundation recently gave the charity a grant for $25,000 to fund a Telehealth Triage Practitioner, to make an initial assessment of clients and then refer them appropriate help.


That role has been filled by clinical psychologist Dr Freyja Mann.


“One of the really nice things about Kenzie’s Gift and one of the reasons I was motivated to join is that they can fund up to twelve sessions.  There aren’t many funders that will fund that amount,” she says.


“These are long term difficulties that people need support through. It’s a valuable resource for people that’s not going to be taken away within a couple of weeks.


“It means people can properly develop relationships with their therapist and work through the ups and downs of how they’re getting on,” says Freyja.


David Bricklebank, Chair of the ANZ Staff Foundation Advisory Board, said it was inspiring to see the help being offered by Kenzie’s Gift.


“Childhood grief has huge costs, for the young people, their families and society. So, it’s inspiring to see the help Kenzie’s Gift is providing.”

Winter Swim Challenge


The charity is in the midst of its three-month Winter Swim Challenge, with the aim of raising $50,000, as well as raising awareness about its work.


Despite receiving a life-saving heart transplant last year, Nic is leading the challenge.


“The Winter Swim Challenge isn’t just a fundraising event; it’s a tribute to the spirit of endurance, resilience and the power of community.”


“Just as I didn’t face my journey alone, we want to ensure every young Kiwi dealing with grief or serious illness knows they’re not alone.”



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