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Kenzie's story

12 years on and what losing Kenzie taught me.

The story behind Kenzie's Gift is not a story of miracles. It’s one of gutsy determination, tenacity and love of an amazing little girl, Mackenzie Eireann.

Kenzie simply loved life. A thrill-seeker from day one she relentlessly pursued fun and boisterous activities, yet her mischievous spirit and angelic looks ensured she was a favourite with everyone who met her.

As strong-willed and independent as Kenzie was, she couldn’t bear to be long parted from her beloved māmā, Nic, or Conor, the older brother she adored.  During those first happy years no one could have predicted the rollercoaster that lay ahead for this whānau and how wholly and unexpectedly their lives would be torn apart in April 2005. 

The diagnosis

Kenzie was just 2 years and 5 months old in April 2005 when her battle for survival began. After weeks of pain, frustration, doctors’ visits and eventual admission into Starship Hospital she was finally diagnosed with a paraspinal cancerous tumour - a tumour that would eventually leave her paralysed.

The journey

From major surgery Kenzie moved quickly to aggressive chemotherapy. It wasn’t long before her little body was reaching its limit. But as disturbing to Nic as the physical side of Kenzie's disease was the emotional one.  

Kenzie was in pain. Her body couldn’t do the things it used to. She was away from the only home she knew, her brother and the cat she loved to tease. She was in a strange bed, surrounded by strange people, equipment, smells and noises.  

Kenzie had spent the past month unable to make herself understood, experiencing things most adults couldn’t bear, resulting in her mind creating extreme fears and ghoulish fantasies. These manifested themselves in tantrums and an intrinsic distrust of everyone. With the right sort of help and through the universal language of play, Kenzie’s strength of spirit began to shine through and the little girl of old started to emerge.

The end

Despite her incredible progress and the fact that Kenzie eventually won her battle with mate pukupuku / cancer, she didn’t survive. Her little body was pushed further than it could manage and on the 29th of December 2005, aged 3, Kenzie died from multiple organ failure.  

Yet through all this tragedy there comes hope. During her short life Kenzie endured more than most of us can comprehend, yet through Nic's training as a play specialist, she learnt to live, love and laugh again.  

Now Kenzie’s Gift exists to support the mental health of tamariki / children, mātātahi / young people and families affected by serious illness or grief.

If you’d like to support the valuable work that Kenzie’s Gift does, and to continue Kenzie’s legacy, please consider donating.