By Tony Soutter – President and Founder
My daughter Ellie became Vice Champion of the world in the Junior Freeride World Tour, a Bronze medallist at the European Youth Olympic Winter festival and was set to represent team GB at the Junior Snowboard World Championships in New Zealand in 2018. Tragically, Ellie took her own life on her 18th birthday in July 2018. Since then I, along with a great team, have been working to raise awareness of the pressures and struggles that junior athletes face to gain the sponsorship and funding that they need to succeed in the snowsports world.
I know Ellie was always aware of how hard I worked to find her funding and she found this a great weight to bear, often feeling discouraged from entering competitions because she knew the cost and didn’t want to put me under stress. I tried to reassure her because I wanted to do this for her career, but I think ultimately, she was still very conscious about the financial pressure I often faced. When Ellie passed away, money very soon started flooding into her Go Fund Me page from all corners of the world, I initially didn’t understand this and felt very conflicted. I thought, ‘if this money had been available when Ellie was with us, maybe things would be different?’. I soon came to realise that this was people expressing their sadness, their appreciation of Ellie’s life and wanting to help in any way they could. So, we decided the best way to put this money to use was to help other young athletes.
The Ellie Soutter Foundation was established in Ellie’s memory so young athletes from less privileged backgrounds, who don’t have immediate access to funding, can be supported throughout their careers without additional financial pressure and are able to focus more on their snowsports training and performance. This gives young elite athletes a chance to reach their full potential in their sport which otherwise they may not be able to do due to lack of financial resources. The grants that we offer can go towards travel, accommodation, training and equipment, and being partnered with corporate sponsors, this assists the athletes to gain publicity and perhaps receive further funding and sponsorship. Most importantly we seek to be a ‘safety net’ for young athletes, like Ellie, who need ongoing support with their mental health in times of stress. We are so happy to help our athletes in their journeys and are excited that our very own Maisie Potter has been selected as one of the GB Snowsport’s World Cup squad members. We are very proud of her as we’ve been following Maisie for the past couple of years and look forward to supporting her on her Olympic pathway. It’s also brilliant news that our other athletes Charlie Lane, Mia Brookes and Maisie Hill have all been offered a place on the GB Snowsport Squad for the coming season.
Another important part of the Foundation is our ‘#riding2win’ merchandise, which we started up when Ellie’s friends began designing T-Shirts with Ellie’s signature logo and hashtag on and asking me if they minded that they’d printed them. I sat with her friends and #riding2win was born. This aspect of the charity brings some certain longevity to us as we’ve created a brand. The logo (a stickman snowboarder) is a special part of the brand as it’s a tattoo that Ellie had done at 16, which she tried to bribe me into letting her have on the way to the Freeride Junior World Championship if she got on the podium. After much negotiation I said yes, she could get the tattoo, if she got on the podium, obviously not expecting that of her first ever time competing in a World Championship- well I got proved wrong and off to the tattoo shop we went! I really love the merchandise we create and how it’s very personal to Ellie and we’re also trying to become completely carbon neutral and do our bit for the environment. A great way to show your support for the charity is by purchasing and wearing our clothing.
One of our slogans at The Ellie Soutter Foundation is ‘It’s OK not to be OK’. And I believe now, especially during these difficult times, it is important that people are encouraged to reach out for help. Increasingly, young people are struggling with their mental health due to social media and bullying, and a worrying rise in teen suicide rates shows that help is desperately needed. The Ellie Soutter Foundation wants to promote a mind and body wellness ideal, focusing on the importance of mental health being seen as equal to physical health and raising awareness of this not only in the snow sports industry, but on a wider global scale. Our newest project ‘Ellie’s Safe House’ works with young people in our local community of Morzine & Les Gets (France) to promote mental wellbeing, through workshops, group sessions, and guidance towards support from therapists and specialists so people can get help if needed.
The Foundation has been supported by many people and companies over the past two years but now more than ever we’re seeking new partners and sponsors to work with us as due to the COVID-19 pandemic The Ellie Soutter Foundation has, like all other charities, been struggling to raise funds. If you feel like you could help us in any way, please visit our website to make a donation or contact us – we are active on social media and welcome any fundraising opportunities.
For more information about The Ellie Soutter Foundation please visit our website: https://theelliesoutter.foundation/
Facebook – EllieSoutterFoundation
Instagram – @esfoundation
Twitter – @EllieSoutterFND
GoFundme Page – https://www.gofundme.com/f/riding2win