Harrison Sneddon is obsessed with superheroes, so when a Superman-themed cake arrived at his fourth birthday party he was ecstatic.
But this was no ordinary birthday party - it was Harrison's first as a cancer kid.
The Lower Hutt boy was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in June and is undergoing intensive chemotherapy that has stripped him of his white-blonde hair.
He is the first child to receive a cake from Operation Sugar, a new charity that provides free custom birthday cakes for seriously ill children and teens.
Harrison's mum, Christa Sneddon, said the cake was a highlight of the party. "He was pretty excited. I think he was stoked to see Superman bursting out of the cake." Harrison's prognosis is promising, but he will have to endure at least three more years of treatment.
The cake was created by Lower Hutt amateur cake decorator Sarah Koopu, who leapt at the chance to help make Harrison's birthday special and take some pressure off his mum.
"Seeing him come to the door dressed like Superman, it was just perfect." The public servant took a day-and-a-half of annual leave to bake and decorate the two-tier chocolate cake before delivering it last Saturday.
Balclutha mother-of-three Rachel Jenkinson launched Operation Sugar two months ago after hearing about similar schemes overseas.
Nearly 300 bakers from around the country have offered to make at least one cake a year and in the past few weeks 50 families requested application forms.
"It's bittersweet really - when we get another baker it's like yay, but then we get another sick child," Jenkinson said.
Seven cakes have already been organised for birthdays this month. The bakers pay for the cakes out of their own pocket - a cake like Harrison's would sell for $150-$200, Jenkinson said.
To qualify, the child has to be under 17 and had treatment for a life-threatening medical condition in the past two years.
Children who require frequent or extended hospitalisation and are within two years of their last inpatient stay can also apply.
- Sunday Star Times