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Challenge ahead ... Nick Latz with his sister, Annabelle, who is running an ultramarathon to raise funds for The Champion Centre. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Nick Latz’s family says the impact The Champion Centre had on his life is immeasurable.

Nick, aged 39, has Down syndrome.

His younger sister, Annabelle, will run the Tarawera 100 miler Ultramarathon in Rotorua in February to raise funds to help fill the significant financial gap the centre must make up every year.

Each year, more than 200 pre-school children with significant disabilities rely on the critical early intervention work by The Champion Centre in Christchurch.

The centre gets 78 percent of its funding from the government and relies on grants and fundraisers for the rest.

Unable to access some traditional funding streams because of Covid-19, the organisation is this year fighting to make up a $600,000 shortfall.

Annabelle remembers her brother attending the centre and knows first-hand how much the early intervention therapy helped him to lead a full and independent life.

“It’s a privilege to run ultramarathons, and an even bigger privilege to have Nick as my big brother, and have this opportunity to raise money for these youngsters who are starting on their very special journey,” Annabelle says.

Conquering personal challenges seems to run through the veins of the Latz family.

Nick started skiing at the age of eight under the wing of Skiing for the Disabled, through which he spends almost every Saturday in winter up on the slopes training at Mount Hutt.

In 2013, Nick won a bronze medal in the Alpine Skiing Intermediate Giant Slalom at the 10th Special Olympics World Winter Games in South Korea.

Nick’s parents, Kate and Peter Latz, say the Champion Centre literally saved them after Nick was born.

“From those initial feelings of being completely at a loss, we were reassured within hours of Nick’s birth that not only was help at hand, but that there was far more that was normal about our baby than not normal, and we should treat him as the precious baby boy that he was.”

‘‘As parents, we celebrated every milestone, big and small, and our initial despair became our greatest joy as we watched our beautiful boy embrace life,’’ Kate says.

Nick now lives independently in a self-contained unit in Rangiora, where a support worker visits in the evenings while he cooks his own dinner.

He often prepares a meal in a crockpot or uses his barbecue to cook some meat, and he makes ‘‘the best’’ salads.

Nick loves to dance. He is currently planning his 40th birthday celebrations next March, which will include some great food, drinks and music. Music is a passion that runs in his family and he has enjoyed many live concerts over the years — David Bowie, The Rolling Stones and Joe Cocker, to name a few.

Nick works part-time at the Rangiora cafe Fools of Desire, where he washes dishes and enjoys the camaraderie with his workmates.

On his morning break he can be seen sipping on a cup of Bell tea.

‘‘He’s grown into an awesome, confident guy, and that’s largely thanks to his early years at The Champion Centre,‘‘ Annabelle says.

‘‘And he’s a rock’n’roller from way back, so it’s fitting that the funds I raise will be going straight to The Champion Centre’s music programme.

‘‘As we’ve said in our family, Down syndrome is what Nick has, not what he is,’’ Annabelle says.

■To contribute to Annabelle’s fundraising, go online to givealittle.co.nz/fundraiser/
httpswwwchampioncentreorgnz. To learn more about The Champion Centre, go to championcentre.org.nz.latest Running SneakersAir Jordan