Her charity blossoms

Flowers for Canteen

MATHEW GROCOTT
Last updated 16:29 23/04/2014
caitlin kiplin
GRANT MATTHEW/Fairfax NZ
LIFE AND COLOUR: Caitlin Kiplin.

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For Caitlin Kilpin flowers represent life and colour.

"They just make me happy, " the 19-year-old from Palmerston North says.

So it makes sense that a greeting card designed by Caitlin for CanTeen features an array of bright, colourful flowers.

The card is one of two ways Caitlin is helping to raise funds for the charity she has been a member of since she was 13.

Next month the redhead will be shaving her head for the charity at an event at Unitec polytechnic in Auckland, where she is studying osteopathy.

She has roped in a number of fellow students who will also be losing their hair at the May 15 event in Auckland, with money raised going to CanTeen's national office. They aim to raise $3000, and their shorn locks will be used to make wigs.

Caitlin says she is nervous about her impending makeover but says it's worth doing, for several reasons.

"I've seen so many people go bald either voluntarily or involuntarily through cancer, " she says.

"I'm in a position of having a choice [whether she loses her hair] and I can give people the opportunity to donate to CanTeen."

There's also the new style opportunities.

"I collect hats, I love wearing hats so I'm quite excited about having an excuse to extend my hat collection."

But it's not about hats, it's about giving back to CanTeen, a charity that has supported Caitlin for several years.

On New Year's Eve 2003, when she was 8, her brother Alexander, then 12, was diagnosed T-cell non- Hodgkin's lymphona, a form of cancer.

After three years of chemotherapy Alexander entered remission, but the cancer returned in 2009 and he died the following year.

Caitlin joined CanTeen when she turned 13 (the charity supports members aged 13 to 24).

The years her brother was ill were traumatic and CanTeen's support was invaluable.

CanTeen was set up to support young people at a crucial point in their lives as they move from being children to adults.

A lot of that support comes from meeting and becoming friends with other young people who were going through similar experiences. This happens both at local groups like the Manawatu chapter and at camps and national events.

It was at a CanTeen camp last year that Caitlin designed her floral card, it was originally an idea for a bandanna design. Bandana week, where designs made by CanTeen members and celebrities are sold each October, is the charity's major fundraiser each year.

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"I was just having fun, " she says. "I like flowers, it's life and colours, they just make me happy. CanTeen does promote living and making the most of life, and it's full of colourful people."

Caitlin says she has no artistic background or talent and she was "quite surprised" when she heard her design would be used on one of the six greeting cards CanTeen is selling this year as a fundraiser.

All have been designed by CanTeen members."I was quite taken aback when I got the phone call, " she says.

Her older sister, Hanna, is a former member of CanTeen, and their father, Ken, says CanTeen has been pivotal in his daughters' lives.

Through CanTeen his children had been able to come through the loss of their brother not just intact but emotionally stronger, Ken says.

"I've found the organisation to be particularly valuable as a way to reach teens whose siblings have had cancer, or who themselves have had cancer, in a way parents may not have been able to."

Donations to the fundraising event can be made at givealittle.co.nz/cause/hairless. CanTeen's cards can be bought at canteen.org.nz/shop

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