Paralympics New Zealand has announced a new partnership with Cadbury ©PNZ/Cadbury

Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ) has announced a partnership with Cadbury, and along with the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) and KidsCan Charitable Trust, have launched a nationwide community initiative to combat exclusion in sports among young Kiwis.

Supported by Paralympic swimmer Tupou Neiufi and basketballer Tom Abercrombie, the "Donate Your Kit" campaign has been launched in response to research from Sport New Zealand, which found that one-in-eight children feel excluded from sport because they do not have the appropriate equipment.

The findings were drawn from data collected in 2017 and 2018 from 60,000 young people aged between five and 17.

Igniting the generosity of New Zealanders nationwide, Cadbury's initiative will invite communities to donate "pre-loved" sport kit in good condition via purple lockers, distributed across New Zealand.

KidsCan will then help get the kit to those who need it most.

In addition to donations from the public, Cadbury has pledged to donate 10,000 items of new sports kit to children in need. 

With this commitment, Cadbury hope to encourage more Kiwi children into the sports New Zealand prides itself on.

"We know there are 95,000 New Zealand children under the age of 15 who are disabled and at least 15 per cent of disabled children live in low-income households," PNZ chief executive Fiona Allan said.

"For these 95,000 children, not having the equipment required is a strong barrier to participation in active recreation and sport.

"We are excited to partner with Cadbury to help address this particular barrier to participation in active recreation and sport and encourage all New Zealanders to look out for the purple lockers, dig out the sports gear you no longer use and provide your support to assist in helping to get disabled children more active."

Paralympic swimmer Tupou Neiufi is supporting the
Paralympic swimmer Tupou Neiufi is supporting the "Donate Your Kit" campaign ©Getty Images

Neiufi, who won the silver medal in the women's 100 metres backstroke S8 event at the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships in London, has overcome huge obstacles to climb world rankings and achieve what she has on a global stage.

"Just like children living with disabilities, those who do not have access to sporting gear are so greatly disadvantaged and the opportunities are not immediately available to them," she said.

"These Kiwi kids have to work twice as hard to achieve their goals.

"Helping children in poverty and especially those that are disabled is something very close to my heart. 

"I have grown up in a community in South Auckland where some children go without, including being unable to participate in sport and recreation.

"I have been very lucky to have the support of my family, friends, church community and Paralympics New Zealand to enable me to follow my sporting dreams.

"I hope New Zealanders show their generosity and donate sports equipment to help more Kiwi kids get active and play sport."

Also lending his support is Abercrombie, captain of the New Zealand Breakers basketball team and a Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist.

Basketball player Tom Abercrombie will also be lending his support ©Getty Images
Basketball player Tom Abercrombie will also be lending his support ©Getty Images

"Access to sporting equipment is a privilege that many young kids can never enjoy," he said.

"Kiwis helping out Kiwis, doing some good in their local communities and giving young children in need pre-loved sporting kit is a great way to show our collective generosity.

"I know how tough it can be for a young hooper trying to source some shoes or basketballs. 

"With that in mind, I'll be donating some of my best kit and encourage those able to do the same."

Neiufi and Abercrombie are joined by other Kiwi athletes, including rugby union player Tim Mikkelson, and collectively they are said to be committed to making a difference in young people's lives through sport.

Cadbury is offering Kiwis the chance to meet these sporting stars at two public events to celebrate the campaign at Auckland's Britomart, between December 5 and 7, and Wellington's Te Ngākau Civic Square, between December 13 and 16.

Purple lockers will be located at each event for the public to donate.

At both events, mystery lockers will contain prizes and one lucky attendee will win an athlete experience for two.

Purple lockers will also be placed throughout New Zealand next year.

Extending their commitment to sports, it is stated Cadbury has also partnered with the NZOC and PNZ to help the country's aspiring Olympian and Paralympian athletes "go from strength to strength and reach their full sporting potential on a global stage".