ASB Auckland Marathon runners pay it forward with hot lunches for KidsCan

Last year, ASB Auckland Marathon runners helped clock up more than 5,000 volunteer hours for ASB staff to spend helping in the community. This year, ASB is going one step further, committing to another 5,000 volunteer hours, as well as providing a hot lunch to Kiwi kids in need through KidsCan, for every runner who crosses the finish line.

With race organisers expecting more than 15,000 entrants, the initiative is set to make a significant difference for children in low decile schools and early childhood education centres across the country.

"The ASB Auckland Marathon is a significant sporting event, and we wanted to do something on behalf of all the participants in return for their time, and something that would have a positive impact in communities across New Zealand," says ASB chief executive Vittoria Shortt.

"We partnered with KidsCan earlier this year and we've seen first-hand the difference that having a hot lunch can make to a child who is coming to school hungry. Every runner who crosses the finish line can feel proud that they are helping children in need," says Shortt.

KidsCan is also part of the Marathon's Charity Hero Programme, where entrants can choose to run on behalf of one of 14 official marathon charities.

Race Director Adam McDonald says he is delighted at the initiative shown by ASB, highlighting the impact that the ASB Auckland Marathon can have on the wider community.

"It is through the ASB Charity Hero Programme that we look to leave a legacy in the community and provide much needed resource and funding for the charities signed up as official partners.

"This initiative from ASB and Kids Can is one that will deliver a very tangible benefit straight into the community and make a difference in the life of every child that receives a hot lunch. What a great way for runners to find that final energy to push on to the finish line," says McDonald.

ASB has been the naming rights sponsor for the ASB Auckland Marathon for the last six years, and over that time, has helped fund numerous charitable initiatives off the back of the race.

Last year's event saw more than 2,500 ASB Auckland Marathon participants sign up to the bank's minute-for-minute pledge, where every minute run by participants who signed up to the initiative was matched with a minute of ASB volunteer work.

Since then, ASB staff have rolled up their sleeves and volunteered the more than 5,000 hours with organisations like KidsCan, Ronald McDonald House, Salvation Army, Sustainable Coastlines, St John, Rainbow Youth, Auckland City Mission among others. 

ASB became an official KidsCan partner earlier in the year, and has focused on supporting the charity's hot lunches programme which was started in 2015.

KidsCan chief executive Julie Chapman says demand for hot lunches is increasing, with 424,546 distributed this year, adding that the support from ASB would help the organisation extend the programme.

"For some children, a hot meal has become a luxury," Chapman says.

"So we're getting incredible feedback from schools about what it means to their students to sit down to hearty soup, or butter chicken, or tortellini in the middle of the day. 

"It means they can concentrate in class, and it makes them feel good - because every Kiwi kid deserves to feel warm, dry and full. It gives them the best shot at a great education, because that is what will break the cycle of poverty. 

"We're so grateful to ASB for all they're doing to support us, and for all the marathon runners and walkers whose steps will make a big difference to children in hardship," says Chapman.

Now in its 27th year, the ASB Auckland Marathon will be held on October 20.