Ciara Nicholl, who with her husband Billy founded Ellie’s Retreat, a charity which offers free respite breaks for families who have suffered the loss of a child, says she is “totally shocked” and “humbled” to have been nominated for a Pride of Britain Award.

Ciara and Billy founded Ellie’s Retreat in 2016 after experiencing a similar respite break in Cumbria following the death of their daughter Ellie who suffered from the debilitating H-ABC Syndrome.

In mid-September, during the week of Ellie’s birthday, the couple were informed that they had been nominated for the prestigious award which celebrates the achievements of truly remarkable people who make the world a better place.

“I was totally shocked when I actually heard, I didn’t know anything about it until we got the phone call from UTV just to tell us that we were down to the final four for Northern Ireland finalists. It was a complete and utter shock. We are totally humbled by it because we wouldn’t even think we are worthy of that,” said Ciara.

As one of the four Northern Ireland Pride of Britain Award finalists, Ciara and Billy were interviewed by UTV reporter Sara O’Kane for a special feature.

“UTV came down to Ellie’s Retreat and it was actually a beautiful day, it couldn’t have been more perfect and then they interviewed us down by the water and then they went into Ellie’s Retreat and took a few snaps of what it was like inside. They then spoke to us about what Ellie’s Retreat was to offer to families,” explained Ciara, who added that it’s still “all very nerve wracking and surreal.”

“To be honest, I don’t know when the decision comes through but whoever is successful, they then head over to the London Pride of Britain Awards,” she said.

“We’re just totally in shock because at the end of the day we are just Ciara and Billy, we are not expecting anything to come back to us, we are just doing it to keep Ellie’s memory going,” added Ciara.

Located at Castle Archdale caravan park in County Fermanagh, Ellie’s Retreat is a static mobile, providing all bed linen, towels and a small welcome pack of groceries. Since opening, Ellie’s Retreat has welcomed 86 families.

“That’s a testament to Ellie’s wee memory too,” said Ciara.

The interview with Ciara and Billy was scheduled to be shown on UTV on Wednesday, October 2.