2020 was always going to be a big milestone year for Kenzie’s Gift.
Kenzie’s Gift was inspired by the life of my daughter Kenzie who died back in 2005 aged 3 from complications due to childhood cancer.
What that experience taught us was there was little in the way of mental health support for young Kiwis and their families facing serious illness or grief. I had been very fortunate to meet a wonderful psychotherapist, Maxine Burgen Page, who supported me through the darkest period of my life. I can honestly say I wouldn’t be here without her.
I wanted to pay the kindness forward that had been shown to me, and also to create a lasting legacy to honour Kenzie’s short life. So, I established Kenzie’s Gift to support the mental health of young Kiwis and their families facing serious illness or grief.
Our work focuses on delivering one on one therapy with registered mental health professionals to young people and their families, in addition to grief packs and extensive online resources.
One area that has been exceptionally important to us is opening the conversation about grief, to raise awareness of its long-term impacts on young people and the need for the right support at the right time. This is what inspired our #DearGrief campaigns. As one of our young ambassadors Luka Wolfgram so beautifully put it in our inaugural #DearGrief campaign in 2018:
This year, to mark what would be Kenzie’s 18th birthday on the 22nd November, coinciding with International Children’s Bereavement Week, the team at Kenzie’s Gift wanted our #DearGrief2020 campaign to build on the success of 2018. We decided to host a photo exhibition as part of our 2020 campaign and encourage others to share their messages to #DearGrief.
How to make the vision a reality?
I had the opportunity to speak at Downtown Rotary Club earlier this year and I talked about the vision for the campaign to explore the impact of grief while celebrating Kenzie’s 18th and her legacy.
After the talk, we were invited to apply to the Chenery Memorial Trust who very kindly granted us funds to enable us to get the campaign underway and commission a photographer.
As luck would have it, we got to know Lee Howell through our amazing young ambassador Becca Hounsell. Lee filmed and produced Becca’s powerful, personal, poignant message and story behind her Climb for Kenzie event.
When the grant came through, I reached out to Lee and asked if he would be the photographer for the campaign. Thankfully he said yes. And what an outstanding job Lee has done. His skill and talent at bringing each of the participant’s poignant and intimate experiences with grief to the fore through his images resulted in a very powerful and moving exhibition. A huge thank you to Lee.
But you can’t have an exhibition without an exhibition space. This is where my good friend, Nick Worthington comes in. Nick owns the Tuesday Club in Airedale St in Auckland, and I asked him if we could have his gallery space for the exhibition. Again, with a very tight budget, we were relying on goodwill and generosity, which Nick has provided in spades.
Every exhibition needs an opening night, and opening nights need refreshments and staff. Again, wonderful sponsors stepped up: Monteiths, Goldie Estate, Tiny Triumphs, Snackichangi and Northern Rocks. A huge thank you to you all.
Our wonderful team of volunteers on opening night and throughout the exhibit, giving your time so generously to staff the exhibit, we could not have done it without you. Thank you.
Over the course of the planning and delivery, not just for the exhibition, but wider campaign, there has been a huge effort put in by our digital marketer who gives much of her professional time voluntarily, Sarah Idle. Sarah has project managed the web development for the online component of the campaign. From putting together the call out for participants through newsletters and our social media, working closely with our web development company, Benefitz and also getting the message out far and wide. A huge thank you Sarah and Benefitz for all your commitment and hard work over the course of #DearGrief2020. Here’s to #DearGrief2021 ☺
To our amazing support manager, Elisa Jeffrey, who went over and above this month, your dedication and support, organising, managing, getting resources, setting up...the list goes on and on...thank you so very much. You make things appear so seamless and effortless, a direct contradiction to what is actually going on in the background planning and implementing. Time for a much well earned rest.
To the wonderful film crew Popular that Lee Howell kindly brought in to support the campaign with video interviews (including one with our fantastic ambassador Nigel Latta). Thank you so much for your amazing contribution, it has been outstanding.
To our designers and printers, Marianne Webb of Perfect Curve Creative, and the team at Integral Copy and Print: thank you all for your fantastic work and support, you exceeded all expectations.
To the Kenzie's Gift Board, whose continued dedication and commitment toward our vision of ensuring young kiwis and their families facing serious illness or grief get the right support at the right time, I am indebted with a huge amount of gratitude to you. You give your professional expertise, knowledge and time voluntarily, working tirelessly toward our collective vision. Thank you.
To our incredible participants
I’ve saved the most important thank yous to last, because without each of you sharing your personal and intimate experiences of grief, there would be no conversation about grief, and it would remain in the shadows. You have each shone a light on how we all carry our grief and how grief shapes our lives. Hopefully, by opening up the conversation about grief at a societal and national level, the needs of bereaved families will be better understood and the right support at the right time is available to all who need it.
• Dr Andy
Kenzie’s 18th birthday
On the weekend just gone (Sunday 22nd November), Kenzie would have celebrated her 18th birthday.
What an amazing start to the Kenzie’s Gift #DearGrief2020 campaign, seeing the poignant and beautiful messages to #DearGrief.
It’s such a wonderful milestone to reach and a testament to how far Kenzie’s legacy has come.
If you’d like to get involved by sharing your own message to #DearGrief, please do – here’s our form to submit your story. Thank you for choosing to be a part of our campaign and helping us to open up the conversation around grief.