by Helena Chan, CanTeen New Zealand

Support, Develop and Empower young people living with cancer is the mission of CanTeen New Zealand.

History of development

CanTeen was founded in 1988 by Michael Carr Greeg, who is a childhood cancer survivor from New Zealand, while studing in Sydney. A youth-oriented cancer patient support group emerged from the personal and professional experi-ences of Michael Carr-Gregg (pictured above- courtesy of Lawrence Smith/Fairfax Media) who, in 1978 at the age of 20, was diagnosed with a malignant tumour in his neck.

It was his experience of being treated at Wellington Hospital that inspired Michael to form CanTeen Australia while studying there.
Michael’s passion was embraced and developed by a group of six young cancer patients and was supported by a number of health professionals.
Not only did young cancer patients need support in their struggle to survive, they needed to escape the pressures of the hospital to simply ‘be young people’.

Phillip Townsend, a New Zealand teenage cancer survivor, was visiting Australia when he met Michael Carr-Gregg. After sharing their experiences and learning about the teenage cancer patient support group in Australia, Phillip and Michael decided to bring the concept back home and established CanTeen in New Zealand.

In 1988, CanTeen New Zealand was created to ensure that no young person living in NZ ever has to deal with cancer alone.

The organisation was launched with ‘Miles for Smiles’, a walk from one end of the country to another to raise funds and awareness of adolescent cancer. Then in 1996 CanTeen was incorporated as a society, and registered as a New Zealand charity. With the support of health professionals, an endorsement from the Child Cancer Foundation, and the commitment of many volunteers, CanTeen was successful in establishing a national peer support network in New Zealand.

Today, CanTeen NZ operates in 13 branches, North and South Island.

Organisational structure of survivors group



Leadership of survivors: who represent survivors

  • President/Auckland and Northland Rep
  • Vice President/Northern South Island Rep
  • Southland Rep
  • Central Rep
  • Otago Rep
  • Members in divisionary committees’
  • Member advisory committee

Target groups:

CanTeen New Zealand is for supporting survivors 13-24, survivors’ siblings (brothers and sisters) 13-24 and bereaved siblings’13-24. Members are supported up to 25 years of age and leave at this age because members are now fully developed adults.

Aims and principles of survivors groups: any defined goals of the group?

We all have one goal – to represent the members and keep CanTeen doing its job by upholding the six values (Live Life, Keep it Real, One Team, Own It, Respect, Do it Right) and mission statement.

Our Mission is to Support, Develop and Empower young people living with cancer. One of the ways we do this is with our recreational and educational National Programmes.

Resources and infrastructure. Activities of survivors groups – what do we offer

CanTeen provides Summer, Winter and National camps. National Programmes are generally run over one week at a different city each year around New Zea-land. National camp happens once a year and brings together members from all branches. There have been new weekly activities that have started recently at the start of this year (2012), e.g. DJ school.

Monthly activities to do something out side of CanTeen e.g. Movies, Laser Strike, Paint the Earth (painting of allsorts).

Programmes that run over usually three days into the weekend are art, REAL (Rejuvenated, feel Em-powered, gain Awareness and Let Go), Teen Link, leadership, empowering relationships, president and vice president training.


  • Facebook group
  • Website:
  • Members 3 monthly newsletter
  • National magazine

Funding and support

CanTeen New Zealand does not receive any government funding and we are therefore totally reliant on the generosity of individuals, the community and our partners (donations). Donations received help to provide:

  • programmes and activities nationally and regionally
  • educational and artistic scholarships
  • peer support activities on a local level
  • counselling programmes
  • hospital and community support
  • select research projects to understand factors and increase survival rates and quality of care for all young people in New Zealand
  • most importantly fun activities
  • The sale of CanTeen Christmas cards, CanTeen’s online shop and CanTeen bandanna’s also help CanTeen and their members financially.