Stars gather for opening of kid’s cancer retreat in memory of tragic Stirling teen Eilidh Brown

More than a decade ago Stirling teenager Eilidh Brown spoke of her dream to help children and families battling with cancer.

It is a battle she herself sadly lost not long afterwards.

This week, however, her parents Gordon and Nicole unveiled the realisation of Eilidh’s dream – a holiday home in the Stirling area, designed to provide some respite and quality time for young people and their families.

And they expressed their heartfelt thanks to the people of Stirling who helped to turn the dream into a reality.

In 2010 Gordon told the Observer they weren’t sure if they’d manage to raise a penny but they had to try, adding: “I think that’s because this is so personal to us that if we failed it would like failing Eilidh and that be too much to bear.

“We have a lot of good friends and family supporting us, but the only way this is going to work is if the people of Stirling get behind us.”

And get behind them they did.

The family set up the Eilidh Brown Memorial Fund in 2011 and since then, and with the help of four volunteers, the Stirling community has helped them raise more than £600,000 to build the stunning open plan home with a panaromic window making the most of stunning and peaceful countryside views.

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Land was earmarked for the home in a picturesque setting near Thornhill, on land generously donated by farmers William and Vicky Ferguson, of Munnieston Farm, who learned about the appeal through the Stirling Observer, with the building itself designed by Ally and John Croll.

Eilidh Brown

The family said the contribution of all four had been overwhelming – and that so many more people could be proud of their role.

“A few years in I said, this is Stirling’s charity,” said Nicole. “People went out and did bake sales, marathons, 10ks, made jam, you name it. The way everyone got behind this was more than we could have ever imagined.”

There is no question her family would raze the painstakingly and lovingly created home to the ground if that were to bring Eilidh back to them.

But despite their understandably mixed emotions, they are proud yet humbled to have achieved such a legacy for Eilidh and eternally grateful to everyone who helped to achieve it.

Gordon and Nicole with John and Ally Croll

“There’s greatness and beauty here,” said Gordon. “Today is for other people to see what they have done. It’s amazing.”

“It’s nice for people to see it and for us to see their reaction,” said Nicole. “The people of Stirling can be really proud of this house because it is here because of them.”

As impressive as the building itself is, it’s the little touches and the thought put into it which makes it special, whether it’s the quiet spaces and peaceful views, or the games room with it’s table hockey and pinball machine.

Gordon and Nicole Brown with actress Simone Lahbib and Scottish rockers Mince and Jon Fratelli

Gordon said: “We have tried to have something of Eilidh everywhere, but not in a way that’s obvious.

“The reality is a child died for this to happen, but we don’t want families to think of that. We want them to feel it’s a place to enjoy, where they can look forward, feel hope and enjoy time as a family.”

There are touches like a backsplash in the kitchen featuring Eilidh’s signature. But it’s the skylights and large windows that especially remind Nicole of her daughter.

“The windows are definitely Eilidh. When she was going through chemo and she would sometimes feel panic she would lie and look up at the stars and the moon and they helped her feel calm again.

“But I also love that you can hear people playing and having fun in the games room.”

Contemplating what Eilidh would have thought of the house and all the effort that has made it possible, Gordon and Nicole give a heartbreaking smile as they so obviously imagine her reaction.

“For people to have done this in her name, she would say ‘what’s all the fuss about’,” said Gordon. “She was very humble. She would love it though. She would be proud of the house.

“A teacher brought her something when she was going through her treatment and she couldn’t understand why they were making so much fuss of her. She was brought up to be humble, there were no airs and graces. I guess there’s a certain Scottishness in that – just that no one is better than anyone else and you are no better than the guy next door, but you are as good as and no better.”

“This is what I envisaged,” said Nicole. “It’s a love story this house. Built with love. For the love of Eilidh.”

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