Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ) has held the second community event as part of its Celebration Project, where over the next 12 months in the build-up to Tokyo 2020, the achievements of New Zealand’s 209 Paralympians since Tel Aviv 1968 will be officially recognised and celebrated.
Six New Zealand Paralympians, their families and friends, PNZ commercial partners and business leaders linked up in Whangarei, the regional capital of Northland Region, to celebrate more than 50 years of Paralympic history in New Zealand and acknowledge the 209 Paralympians that have represented the country.
Among them was Brian Froggatt, who represented New Zealand in both Para athletics and Para powerlifting at the Arnhem 1980 and Barcelona 1992 Paralympic Games.
He was joined by the likes of Gary McMurray, a member of New Zealand's highly-successful wheelchair rugby team that won gold at Athens 2004 and bronze at Sydney 2000, and Garth Reynolds, a Sydney 2000 Paralympian who competed at three Blind Sailing World Championships and triumphed on his second and third attempts in 1999 and 2002, respectively.
Also present was cyclist Fiona Southorn, the women's individual pursuit C5 bronze medallist at London 2012, along with swimmer Cameron Leslie, a three-time Paralympic gold medallist and world record holder in the men's 150 metres individual medley SM4 event, and sailor Chris Sharp, who finished fourth in the sonar event alongside Andrew May when making his Paralympic debut at Rio 2016.
All six were acknowledged and celebrated and joined an elite group of Paralympians that have received their official "numbered" Paralympic pin and certificate.
The group now totals 26 following the first Celebration Project event in Auckland earlier this month.
The official Paralympic "number" is a unique number that is bestowed only once a person has competed at their first Paralympics.
Athletes are then ordered alphabetically within each edition.
"We were privileged to have six wonderful Paralympians and their families, friends and supporters, from New Zealand Paralympic teams since Arnhem 1980 come together in Whangarei," PNZ chief executive Fiona Allan said.
"There was Paralympian number 33 Brian Froggatt who competed as part of New Zealand’s fourth Paralympic team in 1980, through to Paralympian number 164 Cameron Leslie who still has his sights set on the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games."
Froggatt, who is from Dargaville in the North Island, added: "Representing New Zealand at the Paralympics was the ultimate experience.
"It really meant a lot to me and a lot to Dargaville, too.
"The support, interest and passion that the locals showed for the Paralympics was incredible.
"When I was selected for the New Zealand Paralympic team, people were donating money all the time to help me get there.
"It was getting very embarrassing, but it was hugely appreciated.
"I would walk down the street and people would just hand me money."
To date, New Zealand has competed at 24 Paralympic Games and won 221 medals.
PNZ is due to stage a further 10 community events around the country, within the communities that have openly supported their Paralympic heroes over the past 50 years.
The project has been made possible thanks to funding and support from the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board, New Zealand Chambers of Commerce and Toyota New Zealand.