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ALEXIA.JOHNSTON

@alliedpress.co.nz

In the words of New Zealand rural character Fred Dagg – if it weren’t for your gumboots, where would you be?

Thanks to Gumboot Friday, an initiative by New Zealander of the Year and mental health campaigner Mike King, children will be in a better position to access free counselling when required.

Central Otago schools were among those which supported the initiative after Mr King challenged New Zealanders to wear their gumboots last Friday to raise awareness and $2 million for the cause.

As of 9.30am on Tuesday, the nation had raised $797,590.

Mr King said that result was “humbling and incredible”.

“We’ve been overwhelmed with the outpouring of generosity Kiwis have shown, not just in donations, but time, creativity and people’s sharing of their own mental health stories. It’s really encouraging to see how many people outside the big cities got involved, too.”

Among those who welcomed the challenge were children and staff at Omakau School, who wore their gumboots to school for the day.

“We’ve been overwhelmed with the outpouring of generosity Kiwis have shown.” – mental health campaigner Mike King

Participants gave a gold coin donation for the privilege, including Abbie Cox (10).

She said the aim was to raise enough money, nationally, so a counselling service could be available for children.

“They could then call someone to talk,” she said.

Counsellors have already contacted the team behind Gumboot Friday – I Am Hope – to offer assistance.

The gumboot concept came about because for many people, having depression or anxiety can feel like walking through mud every day.

“Now more than ever, we need Kiwis to reach out to friends and whanau.” – Mike King

By wearing gumboots and spending a day walking in someone else’s shoes, New Zealanders were able to “show people who are struggling that they’re not alone, and that it’s important and normal to talk about things that they’re dealing with internally”, Mr King said.

“Now more than ever, we need Kiwis to reach out to friends and whanau.”

Gumboot Friday will return next year.