Teddies with a mission
As a child, Carolyn Cragg barricaded a bedroom door to protect herself and her siblings.
The child of a manic schizophrenic solo mother with multiple personality disorder and only 11 years old, a young Cragg realised her family's lives needed to change.
She took her younger brother and sister and knocked on the door at Social Welfare.
There, she discovered what it was like to be lost and alone with no comfort in sight.
"We desperately had to be safe," she said, looking back on that time.
Since then, the Stratford resident has made it her mission to help every child that is suffering. She has launched "Tedz for Kidz" in Taranaki and other regions around New Zealand, runs a service that helps those who have lost everything and rolls up her shirt-sleeves whenever somebody needs help.
It is for that reason that Cragg has been given the Taranaki Star's Central Taranaki Community Star Award for 2014.
"If we can save one child we've made a difference," she said.
"If we can save and/or comfort, because it's multi-level. The teds are to give comfort but our actual goal is to stop abuse."
Cragg's projects would not happen without a strong volunteer team behind her, she said.
She has faced plenty of controversy and judgement from those who believe her motives are self-centred.
Being accused of attention-seeking, Cragg questioned herself but came up with a solid answer.
"I don't care what people think because it's not about me.
"Every political party has to have somebody at the forefront, every organisation has someone at the forefront, so I'm just the forefront of the team that stands behind."
"Tedz for Kidz" started eight months ago in Taranaki.
At the beginning there was just Cragg using the model designed by Tauranga's Suzy Brown, asking for donations and working with police commanders to organise distribution of the toys to children that were put into care or had undergone forensic testing.
Now, Cragg has a team of nine in Taranaki that regularly help to package teddy bears, security blankets, diaries, pens and torches up to distribute around the region under the "Tedz for Kidz" banner.
"We would be nothing without what (the donators) give to us."
She said that support was not isolated to the Taranaki region.
"I get parcels from Nelson, Northland, Wellington, areas that you couldn't even name. They just arrive at work."
The project has expanded faster than she ever could have expected but is the result of hard work.
"Tedz for Kidz" branches have been set up in Taranaki, Whanganui, Whakatane, Tauranga and Auckland. Nelson and Christchurch are next on the list and Wellington is in sight.
"That goal is half achieved and we've still got six months to go."
Cragg said those involved with the project carried a great energy and drive into it.
One volunteer has knitted and crocheted 21 blankets by herself to be added into the packs.
"They're my inspiration," she said.
"The fact that their passion is the same as mine, it
inspires me to keep going".
Despite the progress Cragg said that there was still plenty of work to be done.
"We've still got to reach all the other centres in New Zealand and then we've got to make ourselves redundant.
"People laugh when I say that but it'll only take 20 years. It can happen."
- Taranaki Daily News