- Publish Date
- Tuesday, 19 September 2023, 2:27PM
The Southern Charity Hospital is near completion and the laying of more than 10,000 special charity bricks has struck a chord with Breakfast host Jenny-May Clarkson.
In yesterday’s episode of the TVNZ morning show, Anna Burns-Francis headed to Invercargill to catch up with hospital founder Melissa Vining – wife of the late Blair Vining – and while viewing the special bricks - which were recently laid in the Blair Vining Memorial Garden, they spotted one that has a very important place in Clarkson’s heart.
Explaining why they were braving the cold, windy day, Burns-Francis said, “What we’re actually looking for is the brick that Jenny-May’s family donated as part of this project.” Melissa quickly yells out she’s found it with the camera zooming in on the brick which reads “Clarkson’s community hub”, while Clarkson watches on from the studio.
Proving to be an emotional moment for the former netball star, she immediately wells up and appears overcome with tears while co-host Matty McLean tells viewers it’s a very special moment.
Burns-Francis agrees adding the paving is not only special for her co-host but for the whole Southland community.
“Nice thanks Anna, I was just –” Clarkson says in response, holding back tears as McLean reaches over resting his hand on her arm as support. “just so grateful for Melissa and everything that she is doing, that’s just a very special thing that our family could do”.
Later in the episode Clarkson circles back to the emotional moment and explains why it brought her to tears, “I got very emotional earlier and I think the reason I got quite emotional is because the Warriors played and that team - who my brother who passed away from bowel cancer, it was his ultimate team.
“Right from the beginning, he was a huge fan of that team and so was my father and so when I saw, just being down there, the hospital, I just got very emotional because it was all very tied.”
Clarkson lost her older brother, Jeffrey Coffin, 56, to bowel cancer in 2018. In the years since his death, the broadcaster has been an active spokeswoman for Bowel Cancer New Zealand and has frequently talked about the impact his death has had on her and her family.
Clarkson and her family purchased the brick as part of Melissa’s “buy a brick” campaign, where people can buy a brick for the hospital for $100 and have a personal message written on it.
Announced in 2021, it was one of the first fundraising campaigns for the hospital and gave supporters a chance to have a message engraved on a brick that would later be laid on the hospital’s walkways.
Melissa initially aimed to sell 10,000 bricks, however, after huge demand, she and the board of the Southern Charity Hospital found a way to add 2,500 more to the hospital grounds. Many have already been laid, including Clarkson’s and include messages from all over the world with some from as far away as America and Norway.
The hospital project was the vision of Melissa’s husband, cancer-care campaigner Blair, who died of bowel cancer in October 2019.
Supporter bricks are available from buyabrick.co.nz.
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