Family bid to raise a million in memory of St Andrews graduate Ellie

Ellie Macdonald
Ellie Macdonald

‘Ellie made a bucket list before she died and it was packed full of adventurous plans. It showed how she really believed anything was possible. We’re keen to capture that enthusiasm, energy and inspiration in 1 Million Miles for Ellie’

Ellie MacDonald passed away on September 18 last year only weeks after her graduation ceremony.

Now determined to help others, her mum Michelle - who has overcome breast cancer twice - is starting 1 Million Miles for Ellie, an appeal to raise a million pounds for those touched by cancer. She’s asking people to help raise money by doing anything from a simple walk on the beach to a mountain climb, a kayaking expedition to a triathlon- all to beat cancer sooner. After adding up all the miles covered by participants, organisers hope to hit their million mile target.

Michelle, 50, of North Uist said: “Ellie was so precious to all our family and meant everything to me.

“Walking was the original driving force behind this campaign but I hope it will inspire so much more. Whether you decide to do the ordinary – walk to the shops for a week and contribute the money saved on fuel to the cause - or decide to do something extraordinary like skiing down a mountain for Ellie, we’d be delighted to have you on board. Ellie made a bucket list before she died and it was packed full of adventurous plans. It showed how she really believed anything was possible. We’re keen to capture that enthusiasm, energy and inspiration in 1 Million Miles for Ellie.”

Money raised will be split between Cancer Research UK, which funds research in to 200 cancers, Maggie’s which offers free support to people going through cancer as well as their family and friends and Macmillan Cancer Support which provides practical, emotional, financial and medical support to anyone affected by cancer. The plans will be unveiled at a special fun day on June 20 at Malaclete Machair, Sollas in North Uist between 2pm and 6pm.

Hundreds of purple balloons are set to soar in to the sky as a tribute to Ellie at the fun day. It will be a chance for Ellie’s mum and dad, Michelle and Angus MacDonald,50, and for Ellie’s brothers Fraser, 23, and Alexander, nine, and sister Sarah, 18, to remember her. Purple which was Ellie’s favourite colour was everywhere on the day of her funeral in North Uist, from the clothes mourners wore to the heather, lavender and thistles which filled the kayak she had loved so much.

When Ellie’s coffin passed Paible Primary school where she had once been a pupil, all of her brother Alexander’s classmates were lined up like a guard of honour in the playground.

Ellie was in her final year of a degree in management when she was diagnosed with bowel cancer in December 2013. Her mum Michelle was with her every step of the way through her fight with the disease. It brought back memories of more than a decade earlier when Michelle was diagnosed with breast cancer. Michelle was pregnant when she was first diagnosed in February 1988. Doctors explained that to save her life she needed to start chemotherapy then surgery urgently which meant losing the baby. When breast cancer returned in 2007, Michelle endured a second mastectomy but got through it again with support from all her family.

Michelle said: “I was with Ellie when she was told she had cancer.

“She took it so well. Her mum had got over it twice so why shouldn’t she? I would have given her my life in a second but it doesn’t work that way. To lose a child under any circumstances is hard to come to terms with.To lose a child to a disease that has blighted our family twice and taken a child already is unbearable.”

Ellie packed so much in to her final few months- graduating from university, kayaking with her dad, jumping for joy on a Spanish beach with her boyfriend Robert Przepiorka, 25, and writing a bucket list of 10 wishes which included as number one a determination to “destroy cancer.” But the cancer had spread to Ellie’s liver and she died at Ninewells hospital, Dundee surrounded by her family.

Michelle said: “Ellie is buried next to John Joseph, the baby I lost when I had cancer.

“Even if I started as a baby and lived a long life I know I couldn’t walk a million miles alone but that distance could be covered with the help of people across Scotland and across the world. I don’t need to do this on my own as I believe together we can beat cancer. That will be my tribute to Ellie.”

The fun day for Ellie is on June 20 in North Uist.

For more information on how you can get involved in A Million Miles for Ellie, a million pounds for those touched by cancer, visit the website