Ellie Soutter, who tragically died on her 18th birthday last Wednesday, will be laid to rest this week, but her family is already working on a loving way to keep her memory alive.
In a new GoFundMe campaign, her loved ones — including father Tony Soutter, 53, and mother Lorraine Denman, 50 — say they have “decided to continue fundraising under Ellie’s name for young winter athletes that need financial assistance to achieve their potential and dreams, in much the same way as Ellie had looked for your help.”
Calling her “one of the most progressive Junior Female Snowboard Athletes of Great Britain,” the family recognizes Ellie’s accomplishments — she was “tipped to be one of GB’s strongest contenders for the 2022 winter Olympics” — while acknowledging the hurdles in her way as a “junior athlete coming from a family without substantial wealth.”
“Ellie often had to miss out on competing and training through lack of funds,” the family says. “She felt and understood the constant pressure to obtain the necessary funds for her training and events. A full season of required training to maintain this level of competition was in excess of £30,000 annually. At this time, as a Junior GB athlete, there is minimal or no funding for travel or accommodation and athletes have to pay a subscription for coaching.”
“We have decided to form The Ellie Soutter Foundation in her memory to help and assist other young winter athletes in similar circumstances,” the post continues.
On Sunday, Tony shared a link to the page on Facebook, writing in part, “Please share this with everyone.”
Amid an outpouring of support just four days after Ellie’s tragic death in the forests near Les Gets, France, the family raised nearly €6,925 ($8,111) of the €100,000 ($117,136) goal by Monday afternoon.
One of the people to whom Ellie was closest was her coach, French Olympic silver medallist Déborah Anthonioz, 39. Speaking exclusively with PEOPLE, Anthonioz indicated that “there was no sign of anything wrong” when they last spoke on the Sunday before her death.
“She was very determined, highly motivated, she had everything going for her,” Anthonioz said of Ellie, who gained momentum by winning a Bronze medal for Team GB at the 2017 European Youth Olympics. “She was getting a big sponsor. Everything was falling into place.”
For Anthonioz, the time since Ellie’s death has not provided more insight. “Every day I am less able to believe this has happened,” she said. “Ellie was full of life, and always smiling.”
An official cause of death has not yet been announced by authorities, but British Ski and Snowboard described her death as “sudden” in a statement released Thursday.
“Something must have happened,” Anthonioz told PEOPLE, speculating. “I don’t know what. Something must have happened Tuesday night.”
Ellie’s funeral and a private cremation are scheduled to take place in Les Gets on Thursday.
- Reporting by PETER MIKELBANK and PHIL BOUCHER