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Earlier this month mum Ellie Marland, from Milton Keynes, ran the virtual Oxford Half Marathon for the Helen & Douglas House and in memory of her daughter Evie who would have turned one on 19th September. Her story then inspired 100’s of others in a Facebook group for her favourite ‘loud’ Lucy Locket Loves leggings to take on their own challenges in her memory. 

Ellie first found out about Helen & Douglas House children’s hospice last year when she came here with her daughter, Evie. Evie had been ill since birth and her family made the heartbreaking decision to move to our hospice for end of life care. The treatment that Evie she received at the hospice during her short life was, as Ellie describes, ‘amazing’. And then, even after she died, her family continued to receive care and support. Because of this Ellie wanted to give something back and raise vital funds for us so that others can benefit from our care and support. After some thought Ellie and her friend Sarah, who were not natural runners, signed up to run the Oxford Half Marathon. This was back in January, but as the months rolled on, like many events this year, the physical race was unfortunately cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Ellie and Sarah had made a promise to themselves and so committed to running 13.1 miles on the 11th October as part of the Oxford Half virtual race.Evie with Mum and Dad

Ellie told us, ‘My reason for running the half marathon was a personal one, in memory of my special little girl, Evie. I’m not a natural runner, but I wanted something to focus on whilst raising money for this vital service.

‘I’d never imagined I would ever have to go through the pain of losing a child, but I did. It happened to me and I couldn’t imagine having to deal with that alone. Helen & Douglas House provided a space to make happy memories, away from the hospitals, where we could be together as a family without worrying and knowing that the nurses and doctors were on hand to ensure she was comfortable.

‘Those days at the hospice are so precious to us, even now a year on. But their care didn’t stop when we all left. The hospice has supported us with specialist bereavement support since.’

Ellie’s next surprise in her fundraising and running journey came before the virtual event had been announced, and they were unsure if they would even be running in October. Her training gave her something to focus on, but, with it potentially being cancelled completely, she was unsure what to do. This was when she posted in a Facebook group for her favourite gym leggings, a loud and colourful legging design by Lucy Locket Loves.  Ellie put a heartfelt and honest post in the group chat, explaining her reasons for running and her worries about it being cancelled. This post triggered a huge wave of support, including a member of the group setting up a new virtual event called ‘Footprints in the Stars’ where others could walk, run or cycle virtually alongside Sarah and Ellie and receive a medal.

Ellie said, ‘Within the group there were so many others who had also been helped by Helen & Douglas House over the years and you realise how valuable they are to the families who need them.’

So, on the 11th October Ellie and Sarah ran their Virtual Oxford Half Marathon in Milton Keynes in memory of baby Evie. The pair proudly wore their Lucy Locket Loves dinosaur leggings on the run and raised an amazing £1880 on their JustGiving page, from an original target of £400. You can still donate to their page, or you may wish to make a donation directly to us so we can continue to care for children like Evie.

As well as the incredible funds from Ellie and Sarah, we were blown away to also receive a donation of £5,100 from the Actively Giving who coordinated the ‘Footprints in the Stars’ event which was inspired by Ellie’s Facebook post. This virtual event saw 800 fabulous people walk, run or cycle alongside Ellie and Sarah. Thanks to them all for their incredible efforts. 

As we are a charity the majority of our the funds we need to continue to care for local children and their families comes from supporters like you, including those who fundraise through activities such as marathons, treks, triathlons and even skydiving. This year has been very different for fundraising, with almost all of our usual events cancelled. This has meant we have had to come up with new challenges for you to take part in despite the ever-changing restrictions. We have been so proud to also see our supporters get creative by finding their own new ways to fundraise for us. Your generosity means we can continue to help local terminally ill children and their families, like Ellie’s, when they need us.