With the mem­ory of the 2015 Coast to Coast event still fresh in Jess De Bont’s mind (fin­ish­ing in a very cred­i­ble third place), her hus­band Dan posed a ques­tion. “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could get some kids who wouldn’t nor­mally have these op­por­tu­ni­ties

Say Yes To Adventure - - Features - Hol­lieWood­house

TAK­ING THEIR IDEA to Jess's fa­ther, Steve Mof­fat, he didn't need much con­vinc­ing be­fore of­fer­ing his sup­port, sug­gest­ing they get some ‘ leg­ends' of the sport on board to help them along the way. Steve Gur­ney, Emily Mi­azga and Nathan Fa'avae (all ex­tremely well-known for their own Coast to Coast suc­cesses) were ea­ger to be in­volved, pro­vid­ing ex­per­tise and guid­ance in the build-up to the race as well as act­ing as team­mates on race day. The pro­gram takes un­der­priv­i­leged chil­dren, or chil­dren at risk, and of­fers them an op­por­tu­nity to com­pete in New Zealand's iconic mul­ti­sport race, the Kath­mandu Coast to Coast. It pro­vides them with the nec­es­sary skills re­quired to com­pete, in­clud­ing teach­ing them how to bike, bunch ride, run over boul­ders, up river beds and kayak down rivers. “Some of them have never rid­den a bike be­fore,” Jess adds, a con­cept that for many of us seems hard to com­pre­hend. It gives the kids an op­por­tu­nity that they might not have had be­fore. Although the ma­jor goal is for the stu­dents to com­pete in the Coast to Coast, it is so much more than that. “We're of­fer­ing them a dif­fer­ent way of life,” Jess says.

As an ex-Aranui stu­dent, Daniel felt ap­proach­ing his old low-decile school, lo­cated in Christchurch's East, to be in­volved in the first year of the pro­gram was an easy de­ci­sion. From the ini­tial con­cept in mid-Fe­bru­ary, through to plan­ning, or­gan­is­ing and then the se­lec­tion of two stu­dents in July, meant they had a lit­tle over seven months to pre­pare. After months of sac­ri­fice and train­ing, Taitama Tukaki, 16, and Bryce Adam­son, 15, along with sup­port crew su­per­stars Sholita Umu­taua and Kayla Scott, were suc­cess­ful in com­pet­ing in the in­di­vid­ual two-day event and were greeted on the fin­ish line at New Brighton Pier by a haka from fel­low stu­dents. In do­ing so, they be­came the youngest ever com­peti­tors to com­plete the Coast to Coast.

Fol­low­ing on from the suc­cess of 2016, Jess and the team ap­proached a con­tact they had at Lin­wood Col­lege, an­other low decile school in Christchurch's East, to form a group of se­nior stu­dents to com­pete in 2017. Speak­ing first to the school and then the stu­dents in assem­bly, they of­fered in­for­ma­tion about the race, with keen stu­dents reg­is­ter­ing their in­ter­est in be­ing part of the Coast to Coast Rangers team. Start­ing off with 12 stu­dents, a num­ber which worked both fi­nan­cially and lo­gis­ti­cally, their first train­ing ses­sion in­volved a run along New Brighton Beach. It gave the stu­dents an op­por­tu­nity to ask ques­tions and get to know Jess and Daniel, and vice versa. Un­for­tu­nately, due to per­sonal rea­sons and work com­mit­ments, three stu­dents had to pull out along the way, which brought the fi­nal num­ber down to nine. The Coast to Coast Rangers team was made up of two teams of three, split­ting the race into kayak­ing, cy­cling and run­ning, with each stu­dent do­ing one sec­tion over the two-day race.

Eden Pet­ti­grew stepped up the mark after one team mem­ber be­came ill, which left her to take his place and not only do the run stage along­side

Jess, but fol­low­ing it up the next day and get­ting in the kayak along­side

Iain Hay­cock. Jarod Bradshaw did the two-day event by him­self, along­side Wanaka's mul­ti­sport leg­end Bob McLaugh­lin, fin­ish­ing sec­ond in the School's Tan­dem sec­tion and Taitama Tukaki came back after com­pet­ing in last year's race to com­pete in the Moun­tain Run, plac­ing third in the school sec­tion. This left the fi­nal two, who again due to per­sonal rea­sons couldn't race, to help as sup­port crew, a not-so-glam­orous but still ex­tremely

im­por­tant part of the group. “It was nice to have them all in­volved and share the ex­pe­ri­ences with the rest of the team, a team right to the fin­ish line,” Jess adds.

Satur­day train­ing ses­sions were run by Jess and Matthew Mark, an­other lo­cal mul­ti­sport leg­end who also has a pas­sion for cre­at­ing a pos­i­tive im­pact on the youth and com­mu­nity. They would pick the stu­dents up from school at 9am, load them into a van the school had pro­vided and show them dif­fer­ent ways of train­ing and do­ing things. Head­ing to var­i­ous ad­ven­ture spots, they were not only ideal for train­ing but also gave the stu­dents an op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence a part of the city they hadn't seen be­fore. “A lot of them haven't been up into the Port Hills, some of them haven't even been to Sum­ner,” Jess says. Again, this is a for­eign con­cept for many Christchurch lo­cals. But it was more than just teach­ing them the phys­i­cal side of com­pet­ing; it also in­volved ed­u­cat­ing them in many dif­fer­ent as­pects of their life. Nu­tri­tion is a cru­cial part of fu­elling the body and pro­vid­ing enough en­ergy while com­pet­ing in mul­ti­sport races. “No more fish and chips ev­ery night for din­ner,” Jess told them, ed­u­cat­ing them about dif­fer­ent op­tions such as tuna and rice as a healthy al­ter­na­tive to take­aways.

Pro­vid­ing a re­ward­ing pro­gram like this doesn't come cheaply, de­spite all four men­tors of­fer­ing their time vol­un­tar­ily while jug­gling work and fam­ily com­mit­ments. “It's easy to hide and let some­one else do it, but be­ing in­volved in some­thing like this is all pos­i­tive,” Jess says. “It has to be a pas­sion; oth­er­wise you'd give up.”

Her two girls un­der­stand that Mum has gone on a Satur­day train­ing run with peo­ple who need it. They have been known to come along to the odd train­ing ses­sion too, clown­ing around with the stu­dents, and ev­ery now and again show­ing why they shouldn't be un­der­es­ti­mated. The sup­port and gen­eros­ity of peo­ple and busi­nesses have helped pro­vide the stu­dents with the gear re­quired to com­pete in the race. Kath­mandu has kindly do­nated cloth­ing and shoes, as well as pro­vid­ing one of the race en­tries. Gi­ant Bikes have given the stu­dents road bikes to use dur­ing the event and Scotty Browns, a lo­cal bike store, gen­er­ously re­placed the moun­tains bikes which were stolen from the Lin­wood School sheds early in the year. Un­der­stand­ably Jess and the stu­dents were dev­as­tated when they dis­cov­ered they were miss­ing. But the gen­eros­ity of so many peo­ple within the com­mu­nity who do­nated time and money to en­sure they were re­placed was an in­cred­i­bly hum­bling ex­pe­ri­ence. Iain Hay­cock and his wife Bek from McMil­lian Drilling have kindly given fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance over both years, with Iain of­fer­e­ing his time and be­ing a buddy in the kayak sec­tion with

Eden. Pak'n'Save Wain­oni have of­fered their sup­port, along with Richard

from Com­plete Per­for­mance Train­ing pro­vid­ing train­ing tips and race day tac­tics for the stu­dents. “It's cool see­ing all the dif­fer­ent peo­ple come to­gether and help out,” Jess says.

Each year Har­courts Gre­nadier sets up a golf tour­na­ment that sup­ports char­i­ties, gen­er­ally within youth, to help with their fundrais­ing. Last year the Coast to Coast Rangers were lucky enough to be in­volved, rais­ing much­needed funds to go di­rectly to­wards the pro­gramme. The money was used for ex­tra gear that was needed for the team, with the re­main­ing funds go­ing to­wards con­tin­ued sup­port for the stu­dents post the Coast to Coast. Jess sees the op­por­tu­nity for this to be used in many ways, such as help­ing a stu­dent who couldn't oth­er­wise af­ford it with ter­tiary fund­ing, or put­ting stu­dents through other pro­grams such as Out­ward Bound. Some­times it could be as sim­ple as pro­vid­ing food for the ta­ble. “When we've got money, we've got op­por­tu­ni­ties to help,” she says. The whole ex­pe­ri­ence has been in­cred­i­bly pos­i­tive, giv­ing Jess and Daniel, as well as her par­ents and chil­dren, an op­por­tu­nity to do some­thing as a fam­ily. “It's all win­win. I'm learn­ing so much my­self, and meet­ing peo­ple who I wouldn't nor­mally as­so­ci­ate with. I'm hav­ing ex­pe­ri­ences that I nor­mally wouldn't be ex­posed to ei­ther.” Watch­ing the stu­dents grow as in­di­vid­u­als over the year as they are ex­posed to new ex­pe­ri­ences and op­por­tu­ni­ties, and open­ing their eyes to the world, is in­cred­i­bly re­ward­ing and makes it more than worth it.

They would love to see more schools in­volved that would ben­e­fit from hav­ing a pro­gram like this of­fered to their stu­dents, ideally as part of the cur­ricu­lum. This means it be­comes a lot more ac­ces­si­ble for the stu­dents to be in­volved, as well as free­ing up more of their per­sonal time. “I like that we're dif­fer­ent to other char­i­ta­ble trusts out there. We're giv­ing the stu­dents a goal to work to­wards, with a huge re­ward at the end.” Ad­mit­ting her­self that at times it is bloody hard work, she quickly re­as­sures me she wouldn't change a thing. “I wouldn't do it if I didn't love it.”

East to East is a doc­u­men­tary by Vanessa Wells fol­low­ing the 2016 Coast to Coast Rangers. Check out their Face­book page www.face­ for more de­tails.


OP­PO­SITE PAGE: North-andSouth – Alina-An­dreea Popovici is a graphic de­signer based in Lon­don. Be­cause she doesn't like to speak about her­self she of­ten tells this story in­stead of a re­al­is­tic one: "FLATOWL started as a nor­mal owl who likes to travel. Then she crushed into a Lon­don build­ing and be­came flat. This was the mo­ment when she started to de­sign and code... for ther­apy." Most of the times this story works. @flatowl @flatowl @flatowl

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