Dressed in conspicuous blue shirts and Santa hats, hundreds of volunteers wandered through the crowd at the festive extravaganza, talking with families, selling merchandise – like glow sticks – and collecting donations in their plastic buckets.
And this year, Hill and Youthline got an early Christmas gift when long-time supporters Coca-Cola tipped in an additional $100,000 to their fund raising efforts at Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park. The funding will go towards the great work Youthline does
"Christmas is a time for giving so we're thrilled that we could surprise Youthline with an unexpected Christmas gift to further show our commitment to helping young Kiwis grow up in a safe and supportive environment," says Sandhya Pillay, Coca-Cola Oceania country manager.
Youth development worker Ramon Narayan, who's been involved with Youthline for 16 years since starting as a volunteer on the phone lines, believes the Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park connection has proved to be a critical one in helping many young people.
"Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park really helps us to promote our services. Everyone forgets how awesome they are – we all need reminding sometimes. We get taught a lot of things at school, but we don't get taught how to deal with pain or loss, or with friendships and relationships. Sometimes we just need a sounding board. Youthline is like a cool older brother, that's always there when you need them."
Based in 10 communities throughout the country, most people associate Youthline with its free helpline, which operates around the clock offering support to young people. But, Hill explains, that's only around eight per cent of the work the youth development organisation does.
"We develop people, invest in communities, and then we provide services that are of meaning to the community. We are looking to change the emotional intelligence of a generation of young New Zealanders moving towards being the best we can be," she says.
The partnership with Coca-Cola through the Christmas in the Park events allows Youthline to take their message to the masses. "At the moment, we reach a few hundred people across the country each year. But here we can take it to thousands of young New Zealanders," Hill says.
The Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park events are also a great way to bring volunteers together – around 100 in Christchurch and 500 in Auckland. "It feels like being a family at Youthline and this really helps us to come together," Narayan says.
"It's a big day," Hill agrees. "As much as this event is about fundraising, it's actually a really cool opportunity to give young people their first taste at leadership and – in some cases – their first job experience or event experience. So, we take it upon ourselves to make sure they are really well looked after."
Join with Coke in raising much needed funds for Youthline to foster their support of Kiwi young people. Get your Christmas donating done early this year. Click now to donate and to do your bit for Kiwi youth this holiday season.