Fly High Sweetheart

By Renee Maurice

Lena Harrop Zhang's joy touched many lives. Friend and fellow performer, Renee Maurice pays tribute.

The passing of Lena Harrop Zhang has touched many in the disability community, resulting in the outpouring of love from those who knew her. One of many lives touched by Lena and the joy she brought to, is friend and fellow performer Renee Maurice, who has shared her words of reflection here. 

I've been struggling with what to say, but also struggling to comprehend how something like this could happen to someone as beautiful and pure as Lena.

I was privileged enough to perform alongside Lena in her very first performance with StarJam in 2009. She was the tiniest fifteen year old I had ever met, and also one of the sweetest. I didn't get to know her well but she was one of those people who you didn't need to be around long to be impacted by greatly, and to know that she was extremely special.

I remember her excitement when she was performing. She was very shy on stage for the first time but after a while, with her love of dancing and the support of her peers, Lena flourished and you could just see the pure joy radiating off her. What a beautiful thing to witness.

I performed in quite a few shows with Lena and watched her grow more confident and become even more jubilant. She and the StarJam dance group the "Magic Movers" made a special trip from Auckland to perform at the opening of StarJam in Wellington and it was a joy to spend time with Lena and see her perform again.

Even if I hadn't known Lena personally, a tragedy like this is heartbreaking and hard to make sense of. I send my heart out to all who knew and loved Lena.

The family have requested in memory of Lena to donate to two charities that meant a lot to her StarJam ( and Heart Kids (