An inspirational Elgin teenager and her sisters have smashed their fundraising target as they approach the halfway mark of a challenge they’ve taken on for Children’s Hospices Across Scotland (CHAS), whose homecare staff are helping shield the family.
Ella Langdale (15), who attends Forres Academy, has a rare form of childhood onset epilepsy called Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, which means she is prone to uncontrolled seizures and a weakness in her bones. She also deals with orthopaedic scoliosis, which limits her mobility.
Throughout the last six weeks, Ella, mum Kristy (35), dad Ross (36) and sisters Evie (12) and Erin (9), have been assisted by Mairi Stirling and Steph Whytock, two carers from the CHAS at Home team. With lockdown restrictions easing in part, the determined sisters are now raising awareness and funds to acknowledge the charity’s support by walking 100 laps – roughly 10 kilometres – around their cul de sac, which is a physically arduous but ultimately enjoyable task for Ella.
Kristy said: “Ella has really struggled with walking and often depends on a wheelchair. She has recently taken to a walking frame and is really excited by the freedom it gives her. The girls – particularly Ella - have loved taking on this challenge, although we have to keep reminding her that if she goes too fast she will tire herself out and won't be able to do as many laps. Throughout all this, she has remained the happiest, cheekiest girl. Everyone who comes into contact with Ella knows how sweet she can be. She goes through so much in life but it doesn't faze her.”
Kristy says that the care Mairi and Steph provide has become invaluable to the family, especially as Ross is often away with work. This is the sisters’ way of saying thank you.
"CHAS is all about making happy memories together as a family. We got involved with them just before lockdown. Mairi and Steph are qualified nurses that help support our family. They play games, help make tea and are just another friendly face in the house and bit of extra support. We know how important it is that CHAS keeps on going, and the girls thought it would be nice to give something back.
"Ella can do about two or three laps a day so it might take us a while to get to 100 but having her sisters encouraging her is helping a lot. She has now reached 30 laps and is doing really well.
“Ella's condition affects us all, including the girls as they get older. But they have been getting along and supporting each other so well since lockdown. This has been a lovely bonding exercise so far."
All three girls are walking the 100 laps together, sometimes dressing up for the occasion, and have already smashed their original fundraising target. The first aim was to raise £150, but that total was smashed within 24 hours, with the second and third goals of £300 and £500 also reached within three days.
Kristy continues: “At the last count we were approaching £1,000 so I think we might need to change the goal again. We know times are hard but anything that people can donate really is appreciated. The local enthusiasm for what Ella is doing has been really heartening – neighbours come out to donate and encourage her on her way. We have been overwhelmed by the support.”
Ruathy Donald, Community Fundraiser for CHAS, said: “Our fundraisers out in the community are essentially helping CHAS sustain services, which have had to expand and change significantly since lockdown started. On behalf of the CHAS at Home team and the charity in general, we are humbled that Ella and her sisters have taken on this personal challenge. It’s lovely to hear what a bonding experience this has been for the sisters.”
CHAS, which runs an at Home service, Robin House in Balloch and Rachel House in Kinross, is committed to making sure every moment families spend together is filled with as much happiness and fun as possible.
Like many other charities left reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, CHAS has had to dramatically transform the way in which it provides its increasingly important services. They have set up Scotland’s first ever virtual hospice to support children and families who are having to completely self-isolate.
The virtual hospice has now been operational for nearly three months, offering families extensive assistance, whether it relates to clinical guidance, financial advice or bereavement support, by video and phone. CHAS family support teams are also offering an expanding range of interactive activities, art clubs, storytelling and conference calls to children and parents, with more in the pipeline.
Although safeguarding is very much in place as lockdown measures ease, children needing urgent physical and end of life care are welcomed at both Rachel and Robin House, where staff continue to work tirelessly to provide palliative assistance in a comfortable environment.
You can donate to Ella's fundraiser at https://www.gofundme.com/f/ellas-100-laps-for-chas.