Waiheke Island race ends in surprise for cancer sufferer

Maurice presented Leah with a sapphire ring at the finish line after he completed the 5km run.
DIANA WORTHY/FAIRFAXNZ

Maurice presented Leah with a sapphire ring at the finish line after he completed the 5km run.

Magic was in the air for one family at the finish line of an iconic fun run and walk on Waiheke Island.

Maurice Nelson, an entrant in the 12km section of the island's annual Fuller's Wharf2Wharf run along with three of his children, spent weeks planning a surprise for wife Leah.

And it all came to fruition when he bent on one knee at the finish line and slipped a sapphire ring on his wife's finger at the event on Saturday.

Maurice arranged for island celebrant Irene Armstrong to be at the race finish to conduct the ceremony.
DIANA WORTHY/FAIRFAXNZ

Maurice arranged for island celebrant Irene Armstrong to be at the race finish to conduct the ceremony.

He asked her to 'marry him again' by agreeing to a confirmation ceremony after the race's prizegiving.

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Wedding celebrant Irene Armstrong said it had been a massive surprise for Maurice's wife.

Waiheke youngsters surprised the couple with a haka after the ceremony.
DIANA WORTHY/FAIRFAXNZ

Waiheke youngsters surprised the couple with a haka after the ceremony.

"The family want Leah to know how special she is."

Leah has breast cancer and is going through costly treatment.

She used to work for a shipping company until she discovered the lump in her breast and started treatment.

Maurice Nelson and his children responded to the haka from school kids.
DIANA WORTHY/FAIRFAXNZ

Maurice Nelson and his children responded to the haka from school kids.

The family, who live in Auckland, now depend on Maurice's sole income as a teacher.

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The pair took their vows 17 years ago at Waiheke's Pie Melon Bay, but had been friends for 11 years before that, attending school on the island together.

Now they have four children - Anthony, 15, Jade, 13, Levi, 11, and Te Paea, 7.

So the family and a group of friends decided to set up a Give A Little page called Legs for Leah, inviting people to run Fuller's Wharf2Wharf to raise funds to help pay treatment and other costs during her illness.

The runners and walkers at the fundraiser were dressed in bright pink skirts and a few had wigs to match.

Leah was among the crowd at the finish to welcome them and family members also taking part.

She had no idea her husband was going to 'propose' the minute he stepped over the finish line.

Other family members and friends had been in on the secret and helped make the arrangements.

Armstrong conducted the ceremony in front of the race prizegiving stage, with the couple's children acting as bridesmaids and ring bearers.

The pair placed their former rings, threaded onto necklaces, around each other's necks and had a smooch - to cheers from onlookers who had stayed on after the race to watch.

"I've loved you ever since I met you," Maurice said to his wife in front of the crowd.

Leah replied that Maurice was the glue that kept the family together.

"It's been a tough six months," she said.

"But I can't imagine going on that journey and through this life without you."

A group of Waiheke school children, some of whom Maurice had taught, performed a haka when the ceremony had concluded.

And the family responded with a haka of their own.

Then it was all off to a reception at Waiheke sports club, in Ostend, with the couple departing stylishly in a vintage Fairlane.

 - Stuff

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