School gets a ‘G’-up: Giovanna’s example inspires students to think about others

MERBEIN P-10 College hosted a beautiful tribute for an even more beautiful girl yesterday.

Hundreds of people – students, family, friends, teachers and staff – packed into the school’s auditorium to remember Giovanna Ienco, who lost her life to ovarian cancer just 10 days ago.

Affectionately known as “G”, the 15-year-old was remembered for her “big, brown eyes” and her happy, smiley, cheeky, funny and lovable side.

For her closest friends, yesterday was their chance to say “Yeah buddy”, one last time to the girl who’ll forever have a place in their hearts.

Most of all, Giovanna was remembered for her selflessness, which shone through at yesterday’s tribute.

Just as she would have wanted, her school held a mammoth fundraiser with all proceeds – $9001 – donated to Ronald McDonald House where her family spent much of the past three months.

Remember Giovanna Day aimed to raise funds, but also create awareness of her rare form of ovarian cancer – all while having fun.

Money was raised from a sausage sizzle, a portable photobooth, and head shaving.

Before 200 pink balloons were released into the sky, assistant principal Greg Rhodes spoke about how inspirational Giovanna was, right to the end.

“I think there’s some lessons we can learn from Giovanna,” he said.

“One of them was, think less of yourself and more about other’s and I think that is demonstrated by the way she wanted to donate as much money to other people as she could.

“She also said, ‘If there’s any parts of me that can help someone else in the future then let’s make that happen too’ – now that is giving.

“She thought less of herself and more of other’s and we can learn from that.”

He said she stayed positive even when things hard.

“Giovanna wasn’t able to get through this challenge, but that didn’t stop her trying as hard as she could.

“I think there’s some things we can learn from that as a school community and I think Giovanna would want us to remember all those things.”

After the balloon release, students reminisced about the girl who loved to sing and dance especially to Justin Bieber and Reece Mastin.

Her friends said she showed strength and courage throughout her illness and never showed fear.

“You have that little bit of hope that maybe you’ll see her come around the corner again,” one friend said.

Jorja Bone said: “I’ll miss seeing her smile around the school, I’ll miss seeing her walk through the gates.

“You just miss everything about her.”

Shortly after 1pm eight nervous students took to the stage to have their locks lopped.

One, 15-year-old Brett Donaldson raised $270.

“My friend passed away from ovarian cancer and her wish was to donate money to the Ronald McDonald House, so I wanted to shave my head to raise that money,” Brett said.

“Today went really well and I think Giovanna would be very happy with us and really proud.”

Students even roped two of their teachers in to shaving their heads.

When they first heard Giovanna was ill, students made a deal with teachers Jamyma Kalamaras and Jen Donnelly.

“They had to raise $2000 before lunchtime for us to shave our heads. We didn’t think they’d do it,” Ms Donnelly said.

Just before lunch, students called in favours, phoning local businesses and parents to reach the target. The result was two almost bald teachers.

“We did it G,” Ms Donnelly said.

This article appeared in Saturday's Sunraysia Daily 21/7/2012.

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