This one's for you, Dolly
FOUR handy station kids from a remote Kimberley property are doing all they can to support Dolly's Dream.
The Towne family, based at Gogo Station just east of Fitzroy Crossing in Western Australia, have teamed up to train and prepare a pony that will be auctioned off solely to support the Dolly's Dream Foundation. Dolly's Dream was established by the Everett family after their 14-year-old daughter Amy Everett, who was affectionately known as Dolly, died by suicide.
Since the teen's death, the Everett family has spoken out about the impacts bullying had on their young daughter's life. Bravely addressing the media after Dolly's funeral they stated they would do as much as they could to put a stop to bullying and to raise awareness of youth suicide and mental health.
Like many parents across the country, Sally and Chris Towne were left shaken after hearing of Dolly's death. Their children completed School of the Air with Dolly, and they knew the Everett family from socialising at campdrafts.
"Dolly was a beautiful girl, she had a strong connection with horses, she loved animals. People are always looking for good kids' ponies, so we think by donating this filly we will be able to contribute quite a bit to Dolly's Dream," Sally said.
"With 13-year-old twins, an 11-year-old and a 10-year-old, we are extremely passionate about helping Tick (Everett), Kate and Meg as much as we can.
"The bullying problem needs to be addressed. Youth suicide is on the rise."
After hatching a plan, the Towne family selected the perfect pony for the cause: a gorgeous three-year-old filly called Pumpkin.
The purebred Welsh mountain pony has plenty of style and a gentle nature.
"My aunt and uncle breed Welsh ponies in New South Wales. They send us a few yearlings each year and the kids break them in and train them," she said.
"Our children are really keen to work with them and get them going. It's great experience for our children to break them in and train them at a young age."
Under the watchful eye of Sally and Chris, who are both experienced horse people, their clan got to work on Pumpkin. Jack (13) broke her in and Chloe (13), Annabelle (11), and Emily (10) have further trained and fine-tuned her skills.
With the goal of making her "bomb-proof" for the next family, they have leap-frogged from her back, dragged tarps around and across her and crawled through her legs and under her belly.
"Pumpkin will have all the basics and a great foundation for the lucky family to go on with," Sally said.
Details for the auction will be announced later in the year.
"We are going to make sure wherever the auction is, it's within good (phone) range so people can phone in to bid and we can livestream it," she said.
"The girls already have plans on how they want to ride her through the auction. They are teaching her tricks, getting her to bow and training her to smile."
A reserve has been set for the auction but Sally was tight-lipped on how much she predicted the pony could fetch.
"We just know, from being in the industry, good kids' ponies are hard to find," she said.
"It will mean a lot to people to see this horse can be ridden well by children. Hopefully she raises quite a bit for the Dolly's Dream Foundation."
It's a tight-knit community within the northern beef industry and, as only a few weeks ago Sally was preparing two of her own kids to return to boarding school, Dolly's shock death was playing on her mind.
"Everyone is just heartbroken for Dolly's family," she said.
"The story has resonated with so many people, and I think it's because bullying and youth suicide have become so prevalent."
Sally has no doubts that Tick, Kate and Meg's determination will reduce the bullying burden on young lives.
"I do think they will make positive change," she said.
The Towne family is also donating a new junior drafter saddle, made by Queensland's Roma Saddlery.
Those keen to call in a bid will need to register prior to the event.
If you or anyone you know needs support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14, or Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800.
Search Dolly's Dream on Facebook to keep up to date with the charity's progress. Or show your support through the #doingitfordolly
To donate now to Dolly's Dream, submit an online transfer to BSB: 035 313, ACC: 237 623.