A little lady whose will to survive in the midst of unimaginable tragedy won our hearts is celebrating a landmark birthday.

It was the toughest start to life for Ayla Collins.

The two people who gave her life — Ayla’s father, star former All Black Jerry Collins, and her mother, Collins’ Canadian partner Alana Madill — ended just 10 weeks after she arrived into the world, and the baby girl was left to battle her way back to health from critical head injuries sustained in the car crash that took their lives.

Ayla won’t be alone when she turns one in Canada today.


She has been in the care of Ms Madill’s parents, Darrell and Ruth Madill, since she was discharged from a French hospital four weeks after the June 5 crash near Montpellier.

The couple, who have three other adult children and three grandchildren, couldn’t be contacted this week, but have spoken about Ayla’s new life in Winnipeg, where she enjoys trips to watch her cousins play hockey and unwrapped a Peppa Pig doll for Christmas.

Collins’ father, Frank, told the Herald on Sunday he wasn’t sure of his granddaughter’s birthday plans but he understood other members of her family had sent presents to Canada for the little girl.

His birthday wish for Ayla was for her to one day hear a special message he planned to share with her when she visits New Zealand. Mr Collins and other members of his immediate family travelled to Canada last year to spend time with Ayla, and her Canadian family had indicated they would bring her to New Zealand “when she’s ready”, he said.

“That will be great for us. I’ve got something good to say to her. I will read some words from the Bible to her, because I’m a Christian. I will open the Bible and find something to share with her. It will be a great honour.”

Read more on NZ Herald.