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Stuartholme seniors turn hairy year into $22,000 blessing for cancer patients

Inspiring: Stuartholme School vice-captains Hayley Bowden and Lucy Baker are shaving their heads for cancer on October 9 as a “last hurrah” in their challenging senior year. The school has already raised more than $22,000 for Cancer Council. Photo: Kate Gilmore/Stuartholme College

YEAR 12 students Hayley Bowden and Lucy Baker are planning to leave the worst year of their schooling life on a positive note by shaving their heads for cancer.

The vice-captains of Stuartholme School plus another 34 Year 12 students are taking on the Ponytail Project, a movement started by St Margaret’s Anglican Girls School, Ascot, in 2015 when a parent was diagnosed with breast cancer.

The initiative encourages young women like the senior cohort at Stuartholme School to cut their hair to raise money for Cancer Council.

The Toowong Catholic girls’ school has already raised more than $22,000 in less than four weeks.

Miss Baker said the idea to “rock the chop” was announced just before the coronavirus pandemic turned their final year of high school into their most challenging.

“To be honest I think everyone’s very defeated, unfortunately, and it’s taken its toll a lot, ” Miss Baker said.

“Obviously the seniors of 2020 have had a bit of a washout so it’s been exciting to see how much everyone’s really got behind it, all the girls who are doing it and everyone’s been super keen for it.

“You’re obviously excited because you’re helping someone out, but just one final chance for all the Year 12s to do something together was kind of a bonus on top of that.”

Miss Bowden and Miss Baker will shave their heads on October 9 and donate their hair to become a wig for people suffering from a medically-induced hair-loss condition, such as cancer and Alopecia.

Both students are expecting to see more than 40 centimetres of hair fall off their heads, more than enough to become wigs.

The minimum length of hair needed to make a wig is 20 centimetres.

“Initially I didn’t really think shaving was really on the radar,” Miss Baker said.

“I was disappointed because to cut enough for a child’s wig you need 36 centimetres and if I’d done that my hair would be like halfway up my head and looked a bit funny.

“When I mentioned that to a couple of my mates ‘I wish I could cut that much’ they said ‘You should just shave it’.

“I’ll have 45cm if I shave it hopefully.”

Miss Bowden said the Ponytail Project was giving Year 12 students a chance to leave an unimaginable year with “a little warm feeling”.

“I know lots of girls and even within their own individual families, they know at least one person whose been affected by cancer so I think that adds to why it’s so special because it’s not just a stranger that you don’t know and you’ll never meet, like it could hypothetically be helping someone you actually know,” Miss Bowden said.

“It’s almost like a little warm feeling because you feel selfless to know you’re helping somebody else.”

While not all students will be shaving or cutting their hair on October 9, most students will be volunteering on the day and supporting those making the courageous chop.

“That’s also a testament for how desperate people are to get a last hurrah for the seniors,” Miss Bowden said.

The pair hope the event will become a Year 12 tradition for years to come.

Stuartholme School social justice co-ordinator Claire Lawler said the 2020 seniors have proven to be mature, young women during a difficult year.

“This is almost bittersweet for us because we see them become these absolutely phenomenal human beings and then we’ve got to wave goodbye to them,” Ms Lawler said.

“It’s a really wonderful way to say farewell to them and be really proud of the women that they’ve become and what they’ve contributed to our world whilst they’ve been here.”

Communications coordinator Kate Gilmore said the school community was “very proud”.

“I think what I’m most proud of is the fact these girls could have easily thrown their hands in the air and gone, ‘Well 2020 is a right off’ but they haven’t,” Mrs Gilmore said.

“They’ve actually taken every opportunity that’s presented and they’ve created this themselves and they’ve decided to go ahead and do this.

“They could’ve easily gone, ‘We’re out’.”

Stuartholme School’s October 9 event for the Ponytail Project will be live-streamed on social media to abide by COVID-19 safety regulations.

Link to fundraising page: https://www.ponytailproject.com.au/fundraisers/STU2020/qld

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