An Upper Hutt boy is known among hundreds of Christchurch's young quake victims as the "icecream friend", after he used his pocket money to cheer them up with the treat.
Upper Hutt's Cooper Madsen was 4 when he looked over from television footage of the June earthquakes to tell his parents he wanted to send his $10 pocket money to children there.
That night, with the help of his mother, Marg, he penned a letter to teachers at Kidsfirst Kindergarten in Riccarton saying: "I have seen what is happening on the news and I am sad you are going through this. I would like you to go and buy some icecream for all the children 'cos I like icecream and it makes me feel good."
Head teacher Lyndell Turner, who has seen the kindergarten's roll drop by almost half, said Cooper's gesture brought her to tears. Cooper, who is now 5, was known as the "icecream friend" among the children.
"We were so touched that he had given up his pocket money for children he didn't even know."
Thank-you letters from the children prompted him to spread the love further, getting Tip Top to donate 10 $10 vouchers for more quake-stricken kindergartens. About 300 children were treated to a cone of "happiness" thanks to Cooper's campaign.
Mrs Madsen said that was enough to make him a celebrity, with Kidsfirst even recognising his donations in its newsletter.
"He was running around the house saying, `I'm famous! I'm famous!"' Mrs Madsen said.
But the icecream-loving boy always worried about the welfare of his Canterbury pen pals.
"His main concern at every step of this journey was that the children would be able to feel a little bit of happiness through this unhappy and unpredictable time."
Which is why she is taking Cooper on a special trip to Christchurch today – his first plane ride – to visit his newfound friends.
"I am very proud," she said. "He is a very sensitive boy but just to even think about that blew me away."
Ms Turner said it was wonderful to see the impact one small act of kindness could have on a whole community.
"Cooper has shown the children, and all of us, that no matter how small you are, you have the ability to make a big difference to people's lives."
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