An uplifting community fundraiser is underway this month to help a brave Donegal girl achieve her 2022 dream of walking.

Carrigart girl Ellie McHugh, aged nine, has faced many challenges growing up, but she inspires everyone every day with her independence and cheerful personality.

The daughter of Aisling McHugh from Donegal and Diarmuid Keane, originally from Co Cork, Ellie was diagnosed with a tumour on her spinal cord when she was just one.

By the age of two, she had undergone three major surgeries and chemotherapy. By the third surgery, Ellie’s tumour had grown so aggressively that the surgeon had to cut through her nerves to remove as much of the tumour as possible. Ellie lost most of the feeling and the power in both her legs. She has grown up using a wheelchair.

Baby Ellie McHugh had a Intramedullary, T8-T12 spinal pilocytic astrocytoma tumour

It is her family’s wish for the New Year for little Ellie to get the best possible chance to walk. After extensive research, they found an intensive therapy program in the NAPA Centre in Los Angeles, USA. Ellie was confirmed as an ideal candidate and accepted into the programme in October 2022.

Her family and friends are now seeking to raise funds to make this treatment possible. Visit the GoFundMe at:

A massive community effort was launched last week to support Ellie, Aisling and Diarmuid.

A trio of brave volunteers have volunteered to jump into the Atlantic every day of the month. Ellie’s cousin Aoife Connor, Aoife’s sister Roisin and their cousin Nicola Coyle are taking daily dips in all kinds of weather and sharing their progress on the Ellies WishtoWalk Facebook page.

The daring dippers!

People are invited to do their own dips in their local area and share photos by tagging ‘Ellie’s Wish to Walk’. Anyone who takes part is urged to please always sea swim safe, never ever swim out of your depth.

Watch the New Year’s Day Swim at Tramore Beach here:

More than €50,000 is needed to fund the therapy and give Ellie the opportunity to “live the life she deserves and be as independent as possible”. 

“Ellie is now 9 years old and has met every fight face on. She is determined now more than ever that she wants to walk and this intensive therapy would give Ellie the best chance for her dream to come true,” said Aoife Connor, Aisling’s first cousin.

“We are hoping to raise a minimum of €50,000 between January and October, this will greatly benefit Ellie while in The NAPA centre in Los Angeles and any additional equipment she may need to make her dream come true,” Aoife said.

“Ellie is a creative, funny, independent , and thoughtful little girl. She is a character and has never let her wheelchair define her. She loves to have fun and now wishes she could walk with her little sister. She is an amazing girl and anyone who meets her instantly loves her and her infectious laugh and her ability to tell hilarious stories.

Ellie in good spirits on one of her many hospital stays

“At present Ellie is confined to her wheelchair. Daily life is not straight forward for Ellie and she requires support with tasks most people might not even give a thought to, but she never complains.”

Ellie, often known as Miss Ellie, has doting grandparents in both Donegal – Joe and Margaret McHugh and Cork – Nora and Donie Keane. She has a large extended family with her godmother, uncle and cousins living in Australia helping to promote the fundraiser all over the world.

You can read Ellie’s journey on the GoFundMe page:

Aoife said: “We are really overwhelmed with the support we have received. It’s quite unbelievable. And every one is helping to make Miss Ellie’s wish come true.”

Find out more on Facebook:

Donate or share the GoFundMe campaign here: