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From Wairarapa, with love

Tony Hudgell with parents, Paula and Mark. PHOTO/MAJOR RIK MOORE

Story by Soumya Bhamidipati

After a six-month delay due to covid-19 lockdowns, a box of goodies from Masterton has finally found its way into the arms of an ecstatic young boy in the UK.

Six-year-old Tony Hudgell had no idea the package, from Masterton man Alan Fielding, was on its way.

Fielding said the boy had been taken out of school early for the surprise delivery by New Zealand Defence adviser Brigadier Lofty Hayward and Major Rik Moore on Tuesday.

A representative from New Zealand House had rung Fielding to give him an account of the delivery.

“Their description was he was almost delirious with joy,” Fielding said.

“He was obviously very excited and pleased.”

Some of the contents of the goodie box.

The box had arrived in the UK just over six months earlier, but had been held up due to the various covid lockdowns in the country.

“It’s a good example of what very small organisms can do to very big organisms,” Fielding said.

“The main thing was to get it there, and he got it.”

The Times-Age reported on Fielding’s efforts to co-ordinate the gift in November last year. He had been inspired after hearing how Hudgell, a double amputee, had raised more than $3 million for Evelina London Children’s Hospital by walking around his house with the aid of his crutches.

Hudgell was following in the footsteps of World War II veteran Captain Tom Moore, who raised more than NZ$65m for National Health Service charities in Britain by walking around his garden with his walker during lockdown.

Hudgell had since completed the ‘Captain Tom 100’ challenge, walking 100 steps without crutches to raise even more money for the hospital.

Hudgell’s conversations with Moore had developed the boy’s keen interest in military history, a topic also close to Fielding’s heart.

The Office of the Minister of Defence and New Zealand Defence Force facilitated the delivery of the gifts, first to the UK, and then to Tony.

The package contained New Zealand souvenirs, such as a range of food, a map, a New Zealand flag and one Confederation of Maori Tribes flag and a cushion with a printed kiwi.

“This cushion was a favourite of Tony’s and he couldn’t wait to put it on his bed,” an NZDF spokesperson said.

“He was also taken with a small penguin soft toy that made a noise when squeezed.”

Fielding included items of military memorabilia, with some pieces donated by the National Army Museum in Waiouru.

An Australian slouch hat adorned with an emu feather and an iconic New Zealand lemon squeezer, both World War I army hats, were included in the package.

“Tony was quite taken with the hats, trying them on and posing for photos wearing them,” the spokesperson said.

Much to the consternation of the Kiwis present, Tony was more taken with the Australian hat than the New Zealand lemon squeezer!

Fielding was relieved the delivery had finally made it to its final destination.

“I was delighted, of course,” he said.

“To think that it was giving him joy, which was what it was all about to start with … I just think this was sort of meant to be.”

He wished to thank the Masterton and Carterton community members who had contributed to the gift, as well as Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty, and present and former Ministers of Defence Peeni Henare and Ron Mark.

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