It was dubbed Doin’ it for Dolly and over 6000 people did just that at Springsure on Saturday.
They came from all parts of Queensland to support the Dolly’s Dream Foundation and its aims to increase awareness about bullying, anxiety and youth suicide, and raised over $100,000 in the process.
The waves of goodwill and generosity were everywhere at the showgrounds from the moment of entry. One of the organisers, Shannon Bleakley, said 120 volunteers had pitched in to bring the event about in just under a month.
“Thank you all so much for coming together from all over the country and making this event not only possible but more successful then we had ever imagined,” she said.
“I met hundreds of genuine, caring and loving people throughout the day, which gives you hope in humanity.
“Our police and security were very impressed, so thank you for remembering the reason we really came together.”
Shannon and her fiance Dan Roberts decided to hold the event in the wake of Amy “Dolly” Everett’s suicide at the beginning of January, saying they wanted to take a stand against bullying and felt that a rodeo would provide the best opportunity for many to join in.
“We want to help any person out there who’s suffered any form of depression, any person who’s been bullied, that’s what we’re here for, that’s the sole reason for putting this on,” Dan told the huge crowd on the night. “It’s to raise money to put in a foundation to try and get something in place to start preventing what’s happened.”
One of those speaking on behalf of Dolly’s family, Springsure local and cousin, Tori Powell, paid tribute to Shannon and Dan for planning, promoting and producing “this spectacular fundraiser” even though they did not know “our little Dolly”.
“For that, we take our hats off to you,” she said.
Tori said Dolly’s final message, to speak even if your voice shakes, was what everyone was at Springsure on the night for.
“We are taking a stand, for you, for everyone else who may be suffering in silence.
“We as a family have made a promise that we will speak. Bullying is not OK. To our children here tonight, please be kind and please be friends.”
Other speakers on the night included Miss Teen Diamond Australia entrant, Dakota Lee Shaw, from Rockhampton, and Burrumbuttock Hay Runners founder, Brendan Farrell.
Dakota, aged 13, whose chosen charity is Say No to Bullying, told the crowd one in four students between the ages of seven and 14 were being bullied, and 64 per cent of girls were being cyber-bullied each week.
“Let us prevent bullying in Australia and support anti-bullying campaigns now,” she said. “This generation, we need to make a stand against bullying and say no.”
Brendan “Bumper” Farrell called on the crowd to extend the hand of friendship to each other.
It was a similar message from Jen Sutherland from the Central Queensland Community Suicide Prevention Network, who said the biggest thing anyone could do for someone in distress was to start a conversation.
“Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions. Don’t think at any stage that you can’t do anything,” she said. “You can make a difference. Words can take lives but talking can save them.”