Main Image: Cancer survivor Rianna Druery with Mansfield State High School Ponytail Project participants (Cancer Council Queensland).
For seventeen-year-old Tiarne van Gennip, seeing her best friend Rianna Druery experience cancer made her feel helpless.
The Mansfield State High School students have been best friends for five years, and in late November last year, Rianna received news of a brain cancer diagnosis.
After surgery to remove the tumor, it was recognised as cancerous, and Rianna underwent 33 rounds of radiation across six weeks, along with four months of chemotherapy.
Having just finished her treatment and celebrated her 18th birthday, Rianna and her mother were brought to tears of joy when they found out Rianna’s best friend Tiarne was going to participate in the Ponytail Project and rock the chop to raise funds for the work of Cancer Council Queensland.
The campaign encourages students to host a fundraising event where they chop off their ponytails, raising money to support the charity’s work in cancer research, prevention, and support services.
Tiarne said it’s been harder than ever to support Rianna due to COVID-19.
“Rianna was considered high-risk so I wasn’t allowed to visit her for ages, which was very hard,” Tiarne said.
“However now that things have calmed down and her blood cell count has gone up, I’m now allowed to see her and she can venture out a little bit which is awesome.”
After seeing an advertisement for the Ponytail Project on Instagram, Tiarne was immediately on board with chopping her ponytail to raise funds for Cancer Council Queensland.
“I knew straight away that I wanted to participate in the project, and when I brought it up with my friends and my school, they wanted to get involved too,” Tiarne said.
“There are eight of us who will be rocking the chop in October, in the first week of term four – I’m both excited and nervous!”
“We’ve even got the Ponytail Project’s first ever male participant in our group who promised to shave his head if we reach our fundraising target, which has absolutely motivated us!”
“We’ve held fundraisers at school for the big event, and the school has been very supportive and sent out an e-newsletter sharing our fundraiser with the rest of the school community.”
The guest of honour at the chop event will be Rianna, who will be the wielding a pair of scissors and chopping the ponytails herself.
The cancer survivor said she is grateful for the support and solidarity her friends have shown throughout her cancer experience.
“This disease has taken a lot from me but I’m so lucky to have had amazing friends who have been the biggest support and been right by my side every step of the way,” Rianna said.
“I am so thrilled and especially proud of them taking part in the Ponytail Project, it really means a lot to me and is an amazing cause, I hope it helps many more people.”
Tiarne said her best friend was an inspiration to all young people and taking part in the Ponytail Project was an experience she’d recommend to all.
“Rianna is one of the best people I know, she’s amazing and I’m so proud of her,” Tiarne said.
“The Ponytail Project makes you feel good for doing good, and you know that you’re contributing to making a difference in the lives of people impacted by cancer.”
Cancer Council Queensland CEO Ms Chris McMillan thanked Tiarne and her classmates for getting involved with the campaign.
“Not only does the Ponytail Project provide a way for students to raise funds for the work of Cancer Council Queensland, it also gives them the opportunity to learn about the impacts of cancer in their community” Ms McMillan said.
“In a society where many are focused on appearance, it is wonderful to see young people focused on helping others.”
More information on the Ponytail Project is available via ponytailproject.com.au.