Jonah Lomu was a true legend of inspiration on and off the field. He contributed in so many ways to various charities across Aotearoa, and had a special connection to those organisations that dealt with children.
UNICEF NZ said that Jonah Lomu will be missed by many New Zealanders and remembered as a giant of rugby, but also that his passing sees the loss of an ambassador who worked to promote UNICEF and support our work for children around the world.
UNICEF NZ Executive Director, Vivien Maidaborn said, "Jonah Lomu was a hero to so many New Zealanders, young and old. He was a great role model and a doting father so we appreciated having him support UNICEF's work. We are very sad to hear news that he has died at such a young age. UNICEF NZ conveys its sincere condolences to Jonah's children, his wife, Nadene, and family at this sad time."
Jonah became a UNICEF Ambassador four years ago and said at the time, "There are so many children around the world who are disadvantaged from the time they are born. As a dad myself, I want to help change those kids’ lives and becoming an ambassador for UNICEF NZ is the best way for me to do that."
Photo: Unicef NZ
Lomu was also the esteemed patron of Kidney Kids NZ. Chief Executive Keith Mackenzie said, "The team at Kidney Kids NZ are saddened by the loss of our Patron, Jonah Lomu. Jonah has been a large part of the Kidney Kids Team for a number of years in his role as Patron. His support of our "kids" suffering with kidney disease has been inspirational. Jonah would visit the camps and our Christmas parties and mix in a personal way with the children and you could see that they were inspired by this great role model who had suffered from kidney disease and wouldn't let it beat him."
He continues to say, "Jonah also supported the charity in its fundraising activities because without the funds Kidney Kids NZ cannot support our "kids" and their families. Jonah's profile with the media and the community was a huge factor for Kidney Kids and he will be sorely missed."
In 2011, Jonah Lomu was set to face off against former Warrior player, Monty Betham, in a Fight For Life charity event to raise money for the Prostate Cancer Foundation. However, Lomu faced a different sort of fight, on September 23 he was rushed to Auckland Hospital, battling kidney disease.
At the time, Lomu recovered to a "stable" condition, and returned to be an ambassador for Fight For Life to help promote the cause.
In 1995, Lomu was diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome. In 2004, he received a kidney from Grant Kereama, a ZM radio host, following a long period of dialysis. At the time of the 2011 Fight For Life event, it was reported that the future of Lomu's transplanted kidney "appeared bleak".