Ponytail Project raises record funds for Queenslanders impacted by cancer

While the pandemic has been at the fore, life-threatening illnesses such as cancer have taken a back seat in people’s minds. Despite this, one person is diagnosed with cancer every twenty minutes in Queensland. To this end, St Margaret’s students are continuing their work to raise funds towards lifesaving research, prevention programs and care for support services to assist Queenslanders impacted by cancer.

On Monday 23 August 137 ponytails were donated to Real Fringe Hairbands to make a difference in the lives of those who have lost their hair due to cancer treatment or Alopecia. In addition, a record $118,000 was raised for Cancer Council Queensland and the Minotti Trust.

The Ponytail Project is the legacy of a group of students who in 2015 were empowered to make a difference to the lives of others after news that a parent among the school community had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

So significant was the philanthropic endeavour, it was soon adopted as an annual fundraising campaign with students encouraged to reflect on the impacts of cancer and other medical conditions and, where hair loss is involved, how they could help boost someone’s confidence.

Since the inception of the Ponytail Project, the St Margaret’s community has raised close to half a million dollars for Queenslanders impacted by cancer.

A dedicated assembly kickstarted the Ponytail Project today where students heard from Nicole De Matos of Real Fringe Hairbands (via video from Melbourne) and Cancer Council Queensland CEO Chris McMillan who each detailed how the girls’ donations would go towards making a difference in the lives of others.

Year 12 student Meg Mettam bravely shared her own personal account of how the Ponytail Project cause was close to her heart. Meg’s mum was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2020 and after a mastectomy she started chemotherapy and radium treatment. Witnessing firsthand her mother losing her hair along with her confidence, Meg, overcome with empathy and inspired by the Ponytail Project, wanted to make a difference in her mum’s life so cut off her hair and had Real Fringe Hairbands make a hairband for her mum. Although Meg’s ponytail hasn’t grown long enough to be cut again this year, she was the first to cut off the ponytail of one of her peers today. Many of the prefects had their hair cut at this time also to the cheers of the school community along with St Margaret’s staff member Liz Elks and her daughter Julia.

During lunchtime, students from all year levels gathered for the main event on Circular Drive. Primary students proudly wore their “wacky hair” and cheered in support of those students in Years 7 to 12 and some teachers who had elected to cut their hair. Participating in the event is an important learning opportunity for our primary students who witness firsthand an individual or a collective community can make a real difference in the lives of others.

According to Principal Ros Curtis, the Ponytail Project empowers our girls to experience how their actions can make a positive difference in the lives of others.

“The Ponytail Project has become one of the biggest and best examples of St Margaret’s culture of student philanthropy.

“Through this, we aim to inspire the girls to continue on a journey as philanthropists into their adult lives.

“The Ponytail Project requires the girls to do much more than fundraise and donate money though. It requires the girls to give something of themselves – to donate their own hair.

“I am immensely proud of their willingness to do this in today’s age of technology and social media, where much emphasis can be placed on appearance, particularly with reference to females,” Ms Curtis said.

The Ponytail Project was adopted by the Cancer Council Queensland in 2019 who have taken the initiative state-wide encouraging schools across the state to join the cause.

Cancer Council Queensland CEO Ms Chris McMillan commended the students on their efforts and dedication to the cause.

“Ponytail Project empowers students to make a change in the world by supporting people with cancer; people who have not had the choice to lose their hair while they go through treatment,” said Ms McMillan.

“Those involved in the Ponytail Project have realised that losing some of their hair is a small thing to do to make a big difference in the lives of others, and on behalf of Cancer Council Queensland I thank St Margaret’s whole-heartedly for their efforts.”

St Margaret’s students and staff thank the staff of Ink for Hair salon (owned by the mother of Old Girl Sarah Clarke (’96)) who generously supported this year’s Ponytail Project by cutting the girls’ hair and organising a L’Oreal gift bag for each student and staff member who participated.