If she wasn't doing something she loved doing, she was helping someone else.Dad Paul Drendel
Kiara Drendel's family describe her as a beautiful, kind-hearted soul who was always thinking of others, and was so organised she had even bought her little sister's Christmas presents already.
But 15-year-old Amelia will wait until Christmas Day to open the gifts her sister bought for her before she passed away in a tragic car accident near Winslow on August 26.
Kiara had even planned her 21st birthday celebrations, even though it was still more than a year away.
Her parents Linda and Paul will probably take the opportunity to hold an event in memory of their daughter - something they couldn't do for her funeral.
"She's always planned to have her 21st in the new shed that we're putting up and, because she's got so much of it planned, we will probably just go ahead with it," Paul said.
He said one of the hardest things was not being able to give Kiara the send off she deserved.
But although there were just 10 people in their church that could hold up to 150 people, Paul said it still felt full because they knew their friends and family from all over the world were watching online.
"I didn't realise an empty church could feel full," he said.
After the funeral, friends across Nhill stood at the end of their driveways to show their love and support as they drove past, while others had decorated the cemetery entrance with purple balloons - Kiara's favourite colour. "She was led into the cemetery with horses," Linda said.
Paul said the support they had received from so many people, even ones they have never met, had been phenomenal.
The family said it still felt like a bad dream that their happy-go-lucky girl is gone. "It's a parent's worst nightmare to hear that your child has been taken in an accident," Linda said.
Sadly the family is no stranger to road tragedy. Paul's uncle and brother both lost their lives in car accidents when they were both in their early 20s.
"That's three generations taken in car accidents in the last 25 years," Linda said.
"It's not something you ever think you're going to go through with your kids, and it's something that you worry about every day. Are they safe?"
The accident happened about a week before Father's Day, but in true Kiara style she had already organised a card and present.
They found it sitting on the table at the house she had just moved into six weeks before which read "My dad is my superhero". "That made us tear up. It didn't matter how far away we were, she was always close by," Linda said.
Kiara talked almost daily with her parents and sister.
Amelia said she could talk to her sister for hours, one of the things she will miss the most about Kiara.
On the day she passed away, she spoke to both her mum and sister - Kiara ending the call with her mum with the words "I love you".
"I hung up at 3pm and 3.40pm she had the accident and passed the way," Linda said.
Linda said her daughter was happy in Warrnambool - the place they had visited for family holidays and where Kiara moved in February to study at TAFE.
To support herself while she studied, Kiara got a job at McDonald's which she loved.
The day after she passed away, a congratulatory email arrived telling Kiara her application to do a retail managers course through McDonald's had been successful.
At TAFE she was planning to swap courses to study hospitality and even talked about returning to Nhill to open a cafe with her mum.
"She loved decorating cakes," Linda said.
During the Ronald McDonald fundraiser a week before the accident, Kiara managed to eclipse the target of selling 40 hearts at the Maccas drive-thru.
"She was a bit excited about that. She rang us up and told us she'd got employee of the night with the little badge," she said.
That's why as part of Kiara's legacy her family started a fundraiser for Ronald McDonald house which has raised more than $7000 so far.
"We thought that was something we could give back. Kiara has always been about giving back to people," Linda said.
She said her daughter was very community-minded, and in 2019 helped start a junior Lions Club group - The Leos - and served as vice-president and president.
Her efforts led to a nomination for Leo of the year, and she came first runner-up.
"She never put herself into things to try and get something out of it, she just loved being a part of it," Linda said.
Through The Leos, she had planned to organise a dance event to raise money for diabetes but it was cancelled because of COVID.
Ever the organiser, Kiara was going to wear the same dress she wore to her school deb but this time with cowboy boots - something the sisters called "country chic with a bit of bling".
Being able to do the father-daughter dance at Kiara's deb was among the proudest moments of Paul's life, Linda said.
During the 2020 lockdowns, while Kiara was studying year 12 via remote learning, Paul was also able to help their animal-loving daughter build a dog kennel for their Labrador-kelpie-cross Roxy.
Kiara was also part of the CFA, and taught herself to sew so she could make pillows to send overseas inside the Samaritan's Purse shoeboxes.
"If she wasn't doing something she loved doing, she was helping someone else," Paul said.
Kiara would greet everyone with a smile, Linda said, and was happy to chat to anyone.
"She was always one of those kids you'd think you'd get a five-minute chat out of her, you'd be there an hour later," she said. "The other main thing that she was really devoted to was God. She was a devoted Christian."
Kiara had been looking forward to being a leader at the Lutheran Christian Camp in The Grampians - something she and her sister could experience together - but it too was cancelled because of COVID.
After a knee injury meant she couldn't play netball anymore, Kiara took up umpiring. "She would always try and go for my netball games so then she could see me play," Amelia said.
Amelia says she will treasure the custom-made blanket her sister had made for her which says: "Sisters forever, never apart, only in distance, never in heart."
Just like their did for Paul's brother, the family will plant a memorial garden at their home for Kiara.
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