All Stories

24 years with the Starship Foundation

Patricia Wright

In this Q&A Patricia tells all about how she first became involved, the challenges, the breakthroughs and milestones, and the highlights of her tenure at the helm of the Starship Foundation.

Donate to Starship

One of the original ‘Friends of Starship,’ Patricia Wright was an inaugural trustee of the Starship Foundation, then in May 1995 she became the Foundation’s first Executive Director holding the role through until 2004 when she returned to the voluntary role of trustee until 2015.

In total that’s 24 years of integral involvement!

In this Q&A Patricia tells all about how she first became involved, the challenges, the breakthroughs and milestones, and the highlights of her tenure at the helm of the Starship Foundation.

Q: Tell us when you first got involved with Starship, how that came about and what your role was back then?
Patricia: I first became involved in Starship in 1991 when Dame Rosie [Horton] was asked to form the Friends of Starship. Dame Rosie and I worked together on another charity and she approached me about being a Vice Chair of the Friends. As Vice Chair and Chair of the Friends Rosie and I were also Trustees of the newly formed Starship Foundation. These roles continued until 1995.

Q: And then in May 1995 you became Starship Foundation’s first Executive Director; how did this change things for you, and for the Foundation?
Patricia: Prior to 1995 both the Friends of Starship and the Starship Foundation were voluntary organisations. The Friends were the fundraising arm and were doing an amazing job raising around $600,000 to $700,000 a year. It was clear this could not continue and I was approached by the Foundation to take a paid position as the Executive Director of the Starship Foundation. This role was to establish a sustainable fundraising model that encompassed supporting the existing work of the Friends but expanding the base by capturing what we had via a database setup and implementing new initiatives such as corporate sponsorship, direct mail etc. The role was also charged with building a solid partnership with Starship Hospital management and staff.

Q: Your tenure as Executive Director lasted until 2004. It takes commitment and loyalty to stay that long – what is it about Starship that kept you in the role?
Patricia: I loved the creative opportunities and the wonderful people I got to work with and most of all I loved taking the Foundation from zero to $4 million annually.

Q: What were the more challenging things about leading the Starship Foundation through that time?
Patricia: Establishing the brand and brand equity for Starship Hospital and the Foundation as the premier world class New Zealand children’s hospital was a very challenging process. When the hospital was first called Starship it was just a name - but over time through telling the stories of the outstanding work of the clinicians, staff and management of the hospital and the support that the Foundation provided to assist them, we were able to build one of the most trusted brands in health and in fact in the country. To say this was not easy is probably an understatement, but I was very ably guided by Sir Ralph Norris our then Chair, and he was very strict about brand usage and values. This provided fantastic guidelines for me to work to.

Q: Tell us about your proudest achievement/or a memorable moment during your time working at Starship Foundation?
Patricia: Starship was the first national children's hospital in New Zealand and as such it needed to be able to provide a world class service for our children. When I started a lot of very sick children had no option but to travel overseas for treatment, and children were travelling to Paris for bone marrow transplants. The first thing we tackled with the hospital was to provide a bone marrow transplant unit which cost $500,000 in total. It was a huge thrill for me when the unit opened.
The next was kidney transplants, which were being done in Brisbane, and we fundraised to allow the establishment of the service at Starship. This was followed by neurology and we successfully relocated that service to Starship. Then we provided the extra equipment to support these and other services which include almost everything in the x-ray department, operating theatres etc.
I was also approached about fundraising and overseeing the establishment of Puawaitathi, New Zealand’s first child protection multi-agency service. This was a long project and required monthly meetings with the Police Commissioner and the CYFS Manager. Eventually the building was found and Starship Foundation oversaw the leasing of it and the fit out.
Having achieved all this I decided it was time for a new challenge and stepped aside. Puawaitahi was opened by Starship Foundation Chair Bryan Mogridge the week after I left the job.
The other huge challenge was setting up The New Zealand telepaediatric network to implement the strategies outlined in the ‘Through the Eyes of a Child’ document. This has gone on to provide a comprehensive vertical platform across all New Zealand District Health Boards and carries hundreds of hours of traffic a week.

Q: Since stepping down from the Executive Director role in 2004 has your connection with Starship continued?
Patricia: At the time of my promotion to the role of Executive Director I resigned from both the Friends and Foundation. When I stepped down from the role I was invited back onto the Starship Foundation Board and I was a Trustee until 2015 making a 24 year contribution to a wonderful and rewarding cause.

Give it up for Starship’s
25th birthday

Donate to Starship
Share Patricia Wright's story
Do you have your own Starship Story?