THE dream of keeping the memory of Fermanagh girl Ellie Nicholl alive and providing other bereaved families with a quiet rural retreat has become a reality thanks to the generosity of a local businessman.
Last month on what would have been Ellie’s ninth birthday, her family and friends announced plans for a new fundraising initiative ‘Ellie’s Retreat’.
Ellie from Cradien, outside Enniskillen, passed away on the morning of March 9th from a rare progressive neurological condition known as Hypomyelination with atrophy of the basal ganglia and cerebellum (H-ABC) Syndrome, which meant she was unable to walk or speak.
Ellie’s Retreat is a mobile based in Castle Archdale offering free week or weekend breaks for families who have lost a child. The initiative by her parents Ciara and Billy came after they enjoyed a short summer break at Alice’s Escapes in Cumbria, a charity which also offers respite breaks for families.
On top of funds already raised, donations to the Ellie Nicholl Fund bank account and online donations have taken them to the £25,000 purchase price.
That’s thanks largely to a financial boost by Omagh man, Michael Doherty who offered to clear the outstanding balance. Michael’s incredible gesture means that all future fundraising will go directly towards the £4,500 annual running costs while anything over and above that will be dedicated to H-ABC Research. His donation of £1075.53 completes the total of £25,000 required and is in lieu of his regular Christmas Gifts to his customers.
Ellie’s mum, Ciara could not be any more grateful and says Michael’s generous gesture of making the retreat a reality is the best early Christmas gift she could have dreamt of.
“This milestone gives us the opportunity to acknowledge the generosity not only of Michael but allows us, as a family to pay tribute to the community of people who have rallied around and brought us to our target in an amazingly short period of time.”
For Michael, after reading about plans for Ellie’s Retreat, he simply wanted to give something back: “Running my business is a 24/7 operation and sometimes I just need to take a step back and see what is going on in the world around me. I read and was touched by the story of Ellie’s Retreat and it reminded me that I should share the fruits of my labour. To be honest it’s also a way of thanking my customers for their business and my staff for their loyalty in a way that is more meaningful for them I hope, than a Christmas box.
“It’s a small gesture but I am honoured to be associated with such a worthwhile cause and I wish Ciara and Billy every success with Ellie’s Retreat.”
Fundraising events are continuing to be held around the county and the next event is a free Halloween Fancy Dress Disco in Magee’s Bar, Enniskillen this Friday 28th October, with proceeds going to Ellie’s Retreat.
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