Club goes the extra miles in charity tribute
HOSPITAL bosses have congratulated Southport Rugby Club players and fans who travelled virtually around the world twice in memory of their late president, Graham Ellis.
The intrepid team raised more than £35,000 for Southport and Ormskirk Hospitals Charity by completing their Ellis Expedition.
The challenge began Graham, who was married to wife, Anne, and father of Hugh, Megan and Jack, had been told that he was not being put forward for the liver transplant he needed and was instead given just a few months left to live.
For the past few years Graham, a successful chartered surveyor, has been among figures who have driven forward transformational changes at Southport Rugby Football Club both on and off the pitch.
He was always a very jovial figure at Waterloo Road, ready to greet every visitor with a huge smile, always very encouraging to players of all age groups.
He gained most enjoyment from watching talented young players developing through the various age groups and into the first XV.
His death in June prompted a huge turnout for his funeral, with a guard of honour formed by players.
Throughout July, thanks to an idea by player and former club captain Colin Toohey, players and supporters were due to walk, cycle, run, swim and kayak a total of 16,000km (10,000 miles) between them – the equivalent distance of Southport to the South Pole – with a £16,000 target.
Such was everyone’s immense respect for Graham that they instead travelled across the circumference of the world twice over – a total of 72,000km (45,000 miles).
Colin Toohey said: “We have done it! I am just so proud of the club, that we achieved what we set out to do, in raising money for the Southport and Ormskirk Hospital Charity and to honour a great man, Graham Ellis.
“The whole club has been awesome and we have had a real mix of people who have taken part, from young to old, families exercising together and making new friends in the group challenges we have undertaken.
“It has also been great to see people step up and push themselves beyond their comfort zones and challenge themselves. I must thank James Cook, who ran all our social media during the Ellis Expedition, which has helped create awareness and raise the funds.
“That is the kind of man that Graham was, to have inspired that level of support among so many. There have been people in Dubai, in Australia, all over the world, doing challenges in his memory.
“There have been people in their 80s doing the expedition, children aged five, the people involved are mostly from our rugby club but there are also others from the wider rugby family who are keen to honour him.”
Neil Masom, chair of Southport and Ormskirk Hospital’s charity adds: “What an incredible achievement and amazing way to honour Graham. Sadly I did not have the pleasure of meeting him, but to inspire this impressive fundraising drive he must have been a very special person.
“We are incredibly grateful for the donation and will make sure this is invested in something which will make a lasting difference to our staff and patients.
“Once again, a huge heartfelt thank you from us all here.”
Southport Rugby Club raised more £35,000 for Southport and Ormskirk Hospitals Charity, left, in memory of club president Graham Ellis, above
The group in Blackpool after racking up a few more miles
Gareth Lang and Colin Toohey, both kneeling, from Southport Rugby Football Club launch The Ellis Expedition, above
Players and fans formed a guard of honour along Waterloo Road to pay tribute to Graham Ellis, right