Charity event in memory of Ellen

Charity event in memory of Ellen

6 January 2021

AN exercise challenge issued for January has been organised to honour the memory of 18 year-old Castlewellan girl Ellen Finnegan, who tragically died in a house fire five years ago.

Ellen’s best friend, Mairead McKibbin, from Bryansford, set up the event which has so far raised £10,000 for the local mental health charity, MYMY.

Over 150 people at home and abroad have signed up to run, walk or cycle every day of January in the 5K A Day challenge.

Ellen was repeating her A-Level year at Assumption Grammar School in Ballynahinch when she lost her life in a fire at her home in Lower Square in January 16, 2016.

She died on the third anniversary of the death of her devoted mother, Nicola, who suffered from cancer.

Mairead (23), who shared the same birthday as Ellen, was away studying in Liverpool in her first year of university when she learnt the terrible news that Ellen had died.

“We were best friends and grew up the whole way through school together. Ellen had a close friendship group of about nine or ten girls who all grew up together and went on holidays together,” she said.

“While the grief hit us all in different ways over the years, I was helped dealing with it as I had a lot of friends who were all going through the same thing as we all understood what we were going through.

“We are a tight group of friends and now when we all come together it’s not about feeling sad about Ellen, it’s about look backing and being happy for her being there. Her father, Bartley, is happy that we have remembered Ellen in this way.”

Mairead, who now runs her own business, explained why she chose a mental health charity to support.

“I chose MYMY as it’s a brilliant local charity and while the fund-raising has taken off, it was more about raising awareness,” she said.

“There are a lot of people who suffer grief in silence. Ellen, of course, was still going through grief from the loss of her mother. There are people who can get up and get on with things but there are people, such as some of my friends, who did not cope so well, so MYMY provides services for people who are not coping/

“While raising money was not the objective, the real reason was to get people out and about and moving in January as the month is grim enough, but even more so with the tight lockdown.

“I wanted it to be something that everybody could take part in, old or young people and you can run one day or walk the next.”

Cllr Laura Devlin, chairwoman of Newry, Mourne and Down Council, is just one of the local people taking part in the initiative.

She said she was delighted to hear of Mairead’s challenge in memory of Ellen and her mother.

 “Everyone locally knows the Finnegans and what a tragedy it was to lose two amazing people from our local community.

“This challenge is great for a number of reasons. It is bringing all walks of life, ages and abilities together at what is already a trying time. It’s remembering the fantastic contribution that Ellen and her mummy Nicola made, not just to Castlewellan but the wider area. It is raising funds for an amazing local charity and lastly shining a spotlight on the need to deal with grief.”

She added that with gyms closed and social interactions severely restricted, the challenge helped give the community a focus in one of the darker months of the year.

To take part or donate to the event, visit 5K A DAY January on