Local hero humbled

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AWARD WINNER: Reon Blake has planted 110 pin oaks to remember the men from the foothills who died fighting for their country.
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Mayfield resident Reon Blake is among a select group of 100 people nationwide to receive a 2024 Kiwibank Local Hero Award.

‘‘When I found out I had received the award I had mixed emotions. I was surprised and very humbled,’’ he said.

The citation said he was a much-loved member of the Mayfield community, and widely regarded for his generous service, taking on a variety of roles and supporting a range of community projects.

Despite his busy schedule as a full-time police officer and commercial pilot, Blake had made an outstanding effort to repurpose farmland into the Anama Bike Track, providing a dedicated space for locals to enjoy.

In his role as the president of the Red Poppy Society, he embarked on a years-long book project called The Foothills Fallen, bringing to life the stories of 110 soldiers who lost their lives at war.

Blake said he volunteers because he gets a buzz from helping others.

Blake resigned from the police late last year. He now works as a security manager for Exxon Mobil in Papua New Guinea.

The overseas post has not stopped Blake doing things for his local community.

MUCH-LOVED COMMUNITY MEMBER: Reon Blake was surprised and humbled to be awarded a 2024 Kiwibank Local Hero Award.

He continues to be president of the Red Poppy Society, is planning the annual Anzac Service at Mayfield Hall for Anzac Day and he joins the Mayfield School Board of Trustees meetings by Zoom.

He and other parents at the school have just raised $48,000, through farming initiatives, to employ a teaching assistant.

Following the release of The Foothills Fallen, he has planted 110 pin oaks at Anama, one for each soldier.

The length of the planting is one mile, and will be called The Memorial Mile.

He is now working on putting a plaque with each tree with a photo and an abridged version of their stories from his book. Those who would like to give towards the cost of the plaques are welcome to contact Blake.

With regard to the bike track, he said the motivation for this came out of his awareness people in the foothills area didn’t have access to such a facility.

‘‘The track is a work in progress and they continue to make improvements. There are two tracks one for adults and one for kids. The park is open on weekends for motorbikes and during the week people can walk, take their dogs or ride their horses,’’ he said.

FOOTHILLS FALLEN: As president of the Red Poppy Society Reon Blake embarked on a years-long book project called The Foothills Fallen, bringing to life the stories of 110 soldiers who lost their lives at war.

Blake’s work in Papua New Guinea brings him in contact with people who up until about 15 years ago had not seen Westerners. It’s a country where murders are common place, lawlessness exists, and family feuds can go back eight generations.

Blake is continuing his community engagement in the country as he collects sports balls to take there.

While he had some skills in speaking pigeon English from time serving with the police in the Solomon Islands, he is now working on learning the language to enable him to build relationships with fellow staff and other locals.

Alongside Blake, there was another person with previous connections with Mid Canterbury who received a Kiwibank Local Hero Award. Former Canterbury District Health Board member Dr Olive Webb received her’s for tirelessly advocating for New Zealanders with learning disabilities.

Webb has been named as a semifinalist in the 2024 New Zealand Local Hero of the Year. Nominees for this are selected from the 100 people who have been awarded Kiwibank Local Heroes award.

– Anyone who would like to give towards the plaques at the foot of the trees planted to honour the fallen from the foothills area, or good quality sports balls for youth in Papua New Guinea can contact Reon Blake by email at reon_blake@hotmail.com