Interview With Tony Soutter of the Ellie Soutter Foundation for #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

We spoke to the president of the Ellie Soutter Foundation and father of Ellie, Tony Soutter, surrounding the #mentalhealthawareness week in the US to highlight their story, message and services after suffering heart-breaking loss of Ellie in 2018. Their story is relevant to 1000s of people around the world, and dedicating their work to Snowsports enthusiasts resonates with an industry we love here at OOSC.

Take a look at our interview with Tony Soutter below:

Can you give a quick background of Ellie and her love for snowboarding

Ellie was one of those people just fun to be around. Her love for Snowsports started at the age of 2 whilst skiing with me in a in a back pack on my back, tapping me on the shoulder saying "faster daddy faster.” She learnt to ski in Les Gets from 3 years old on annual ski holidays and became a very good skier. Ellie and I moved to Les Gets in 2009 when she was just 9 years old. She found it difficult to start with but after a few months when she had a better level of French she started to love the place. At the age of twelve she moved from the local school to a international College nearby. Much to my dismay Ellie came home one day and told me I had to buy her a snowboard as she had decided to take up snowboarding at school. She fell in love with shredding the mountains with her friends and spent as much time as possible on her board. That same season she was spotted by the GB elite SBX team training on our local mountain and was ask to trial for the team. A few weeks later she won the Brits with her arm in cast from a broken wrist. From that point on she excelled in the sport and in 2017 won a bronze medal at the European youth Olympics and in the same year became vice junior world champion in the Junior Freeride world tour.

When was the Ellie Soutter foundation created

In 2018 Immediately after Ellie’s tragic death people started to send money to her Gofund me account set up to help fund her career in snowboarding. I have to say I was pretty upset that this was happening as I thought she had no need for this anymore. Losing a child to suicide is the worst thing a parent can bare and my thoughts turned to trying to prevent another set of parents having to go through this. My brother Jeremy suggested we set ups a foundation to help athletes like Ellie Struggling to fund their sporting ambitions, and relieve some of the pressures off them by offering them Grant funding packages. The foundation was founded in October 2018.

What does the Ellie Souter foundation aim to achieve

The purpose of the Foundation is to identify and provide support for young people, who have a demonstrable talent for winter sports and would otherwise be unable to maximise their potential because of a lack of financial resources. This is achieved by providing grants for equipment, training, travel, competing and accommodation.

As much as possible, we seek to alleviate financial pressures so athletes can focus on their performance without constant financial worry. We hope to promote social mobility by making winter sports more accessible to those athletes from less wealthy backgrounds.

We’ll seek to assist young people in developing the skills they need to deal with pressure and stress of competitive winter sports.

We’ll provide assistance to those for whom the challenges of performance may have caused or be causing mental health issues.

What message would you like to spread around mental health awareness week

You would never walk past a person with a broken leg and tell them to just get up and get on with it! Mental health is no different, it can be just as debilitating . STOP take a minute to ask if they would like some help our just a chat Let them know “IT'S OK NOT TO BE OK."

How can people help promote your message and your charity

Please follow, share and comment on or social media feeds this helps spread the word about what we are doing. If you are setting yourself a goal, a run a cycle ride or maybe something grander please think about getting sponsors for it. Engage with your colleagues in the work place and ask them to do the same. Or just go to website and donate any amount big or small.

What message do you have for those wanting to experience winter sports and start learning?

If you want to start a winter sport that is only ever going to bring a huge amount of fun into your life. Find a local club, lessons for beginners are normally relatively cheap or reduced. The clubs also normally have access to cheaper group booking for real on snow trips away. The mountains are waiting!

Can you tell us more about your #RIDING2WIN campaign?

After Ellies death her friends came to me with tee shirt designs that they wanted to print and wear whilst on the slopes or in resort. At the same time I thought producing a range of merchandise could help sustain a constant revenue stream for the foundation in later years. I got together with Ellie's friends and #riding2win was born with its motto “IT’S OK NOT TO BE OK” #riding2win was a # she used in her social media so it made sense to call it the same. The iconic snowboard stickman logo was used as this was a tattoo that Ellie got at the age of 16 (yes exactly too young I know) I was Driving Ellie to the Junior Freeride World Championships in Andorra When she asked, if she podiums could she get a tattoo, I said no way! When you are eighteen you can do what you like to yourself but not before. After 4 hours of non-stop nagging whilst driving up the mountain and being shown the design she wanted on her ankle, being convinced by her that as this was her first ever major Freeride comp and she was very unlikely to podium. I reluctantly gave in and agreed. Ellie came second and I had to pay for a tattoo a week later on a 16 year old. It is very important to us that #riding2win merchandise is all sustainable, ethical and wherever we can carbon neutral in it manufacture.

How do your ambassadors work with your charity and how can people apply to become an ambassador?

Our ambassadors help us to promote the foundation by attending events and sharing with the audiences what it means to have a support network around you. They wear and promote the merchandise we manufacture. Follow, share and tag us in their own social media. To become an ambassador you can apply by contacting us through our website.

If you could give any advice to those who are struggling with mental health what would it be

If you find yourself struggling with your mental health please remember that those around you and possibly closest to you cannot always see this! Talk to them and share what is really bothering you. You are more loved by more people in this world than you will ever know. If you feel your friends or family will not understand, then contact someone who will like the Samaritans or mind, they are available 24 hours a day and they genuinely can and will help. Also remember above all “IT’S OK NOT TO BE OK”

In honour of the Ellie Soutter foundation and the messaging around #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek – OOSC will be donating 10% of Sales gained throughout this week to the charity and will be donating towards their charity gala on the 15th October.