A million smiles for Ellie at Uist charity event

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A battalion of hardy, big-hearted fundraisers took on the might of an assault course alongside the 16 Regiment Royal Artillery to raise money for charity A Million Miles For Ellie.

A Million Miles for Ellie, A million Pounds for Cancer, was set up by Ellie Macdonald, who fought a brave battle against cancer before passing away at just 23.

Her fundraising continues and a group of Ellie’s community joined ranks with the 16 Regiment Royal Artillery to run a challenging but fun assault course on the family croft in Kyles, Paible, North Uist.

Despite the showers of hail stones that fell like shards of glass and the bitter wind that greeted everyone on the Uists and Benbecula on the morning of the Million Miles for Ellie challenge, to raise money for those touched by cancer, a crowd of around 300 turned up, 180 of those brave souls to take part.

Ellie’s father, Angus MacDonald, staff from the family’s business and soldiers from the regiment spent three days setting up the course which had around 30 obstacles including a rope challenge over a roof, silage bale ascent and descent, crawling ditches under camouflage nets, a river and log challenge, monkey bars and a big pool of water at the finish line.

Everyone completed the course suitably wet and muddy to be greeted by a fire hose for a wash down and tubs filled with warm water.

Lovely pots of soup and a pile of home baking from the wonderful ladies in the community satisfied everyone once they had got out of their wet clothes and John Docherty and his family from the Lochmaddy Hotel provided delicious burgers from the barbeque.

A fantastic £3,167.90 was raised on the day and donations are still coming in by hand and on the Virgin Money Giving site. The total raised since the campaign launched on the 20th June last year stands at around £55,000.

Angus said: “It was wonderful to see so many people out on a wild day laughing and having fun whilst being cold and wet and challenging themselves.

“Michelle and I are overwhelmed, yet again, by the support that we have received to raise money and complete miles in our daughter’s name.”

Prizes were awarded by Major Dave Joyce, the Battery Commander, to the children who ran their own smaller course and to the fastest adults as well as to the team that showed true grit – the MacIntyre Ladies – who were chosen by an army marshal for showing sheer determination to get around the course.

“16 Regiment Royal Artillery were delighted to be asked to assist with the 1 Million Miles for Ellie Assault Course Challenge,” said Major Joyce.

“The event was a resounding success and it was great to see so many locals participate alongside the army.”

He added: “While it was an ambitious project, it had been successful and had been a good joint enterprise between 16 Regt and the Hebridean community. There is real potential for more such events in the future to build on the success of this day and raise more money for what is a fantastic cause.”

After the prize giving he instigated a rousing “Three cheers for Ellie”.

Michelle commented: “We couldn’t have done this without the support of the regiment and especially that of Warrant Officer Rob Matthews who has been involved with the planning from the start. He and the men and women who have been helped with this challenge are a credit to the army.”

There was disappointment as participants from St Andrews University, the Highlands, Lewis and Barra were unable to attend due to ferry cancellations because of the bad weather.

However, the event was enjoyed so much by all that the family hope to hold another one in September, with the regiment’s support again should dates allow.

Michelle added: “Ellie loved connecting people together and encouraging them to challenge themselves; she would have thoroughly enjoyed this event and we felt her spirit with us on the day, especially when the sun managed to make an appearance.

“It was an honour to work with the men and women from 16 Regiment Royal Artillery and with our community to raise money for Cancer Research UK, MacMillan Cancer Support and Maggies.

“We know that every penny raised will go towards helping those touched by cancer.”

Pictured are some of those tacking part in the challenging course.