Vodafone Warriors ambassador Jerome Ropati joins Lincoln Heights School pupils with Prime Minister John Key, Sociall Development  Minister Paula Bennett and National List MP Alfred Ngaro.

KidsCan’s ‘Raincoats for Kids’ programme has reached the 100,000 mark with almost half of the coats being handed out since the Vodafone Warriors began partnering the charity last year.

Just-retired Vodafone Warriors veteran Jerome Ropati – now a club ambassador – joined Prime Minister John Key, Social Development Minister Paula Bennett and National List MP Alfred Ngaro at Lincoln Heights School in Auckland on Friday to celebrate the handing over of the 100,000th KidsCan raincoat to a school child.

Operating since 2005, the children’s charity KidsCan supports more than 400 low decile schools by providing much needed items to vulnerable children including food, raincoats, waterproof trousers, shoes, socks and hygiene products.

KidsCan and the Vodafone Warriors formed a three-year partnership last year which has already seen 45,000 Kiwi kids receive branded Vodafone Warriors raincoats to keep them warm and dry.

These raincoats have been handed out at schools throughout the country with Vodafone Warriors players present many times since the partnership launch at Takanini Primary School in Manukau City.

KidsCan CEO and founder Julie Chapman said the Ministry of Social Development had been a significant supporter of KidsCans programmes since 2009, providing funding to improve the educational prospects of our children in decile one to four schools.

She added this contribution, along with corporate sponsorship, donations from organisations such as Pub Charity and more than 5000 individual ‘In Our Own Backyard’ supporters had enabled the trust to provide 100,000 coats for children in 320 schools across New Zealand.

“Providing raincoats can be a financial struggle for lower income families with many children kept home when it rains,” said Chapman.

“Those who do go to school, turn up wet and freezing cold, which makes it very difficult to focus and participate in class. Our partner schools tell us children without coats get sick more often which increases absenteeism.”

The KidsCan ‘Raincoats for Kids’ programme reduces absenteeism and helps to build self-esteem and a culture of belonging at school.

Massey University research found there is no stigma associated with the raincoats and children take very good care of them. Some even sleep in them as it is the warmest item of clothing they own. There are also many examples of the raincoats reducing social differences as less fortunate children now look the same as their peers and can attend activities as a unified group.

Lincoln Heights School principal Debbie Waikato is just one of the many school principals who have expressed their gratitude and appreciation for the practical support KidsCan provides.

“We are a school focused on bringing out the best in each of our children and helping them to reach new heights in their educational journey,” she said.

“KidsCan helps children meet their potential by reducing barriers to attendance, engagement and learning. Our school truly appreciates the generosity of KidsCan and its partners. They are really making a difference for our children and their futures.”

Vodafone Warriors chief executive Wayne Scurrah said the club was delighted it was able to support KidsCan and in-need school children in such a tangible way.

“It’s a special thrill for us as a club and for our players knowing how much of a difference it’s making to the school kids benefiting from the programme,” he said.

“Seeing the excitement on kids’ faces when they find out they’re all being given a raincoat is priceless, a really heart-warming experience.”

KidsCan runs three other programmes: 'Food for Kids' which supports 12,500 hungry children a week,  'Shoes for Kids’, with 20,000 pairs being given out this year and ’Health for Kids’, which targets head lice, skin infections and provides funding for prescription medicine.