THE parents of a tot who died from a brain tumour at Christmas paid tribute to their "special, feisty little girl" by releasing balloons filled with heartfelt messages.
Joanne and Phil Mulligan-Green and their three-year-old son Joshua marked what would have been their inspirational daughter Ellese’s fifth birthday with 150 of their closest family and friends at a fund-raising event in her name at the Peel Park pub, on Turkey Street, Accrington.
Ellese battled a deadly brain tumour for more than six months with great dignity, even coping with it when it took away her ability to sit or walk.
She even defied doctors by starting at St Mary’s RC Primary School, Oswaldtwistle. They said she would never see school life after she was diagnosed with the tumour in June last year.
Her mum Joanne said: "I was really not looking forward to the event. But on the day I was so surprised with how many people turned up. It is just a great example of how much support we have received from the moment Ellese became ill.
"Josh released his balloon – one of the first – with a message which said I miss you Esse, I want you back and then he frantically coloured in the message in her favourite colour, orange.
"He watched it for a few seconds before he said: ‘She’s got it now mummy’."
Releasing balloons has become a family tradition for the Mulligan-Greens, starting when Ellese’s grandfather died.
Joanne added: "It was really nice because we all felt very close to Ellese. Joshua understood what he was doing because we have released balloons for my dad. This is definitely something we will continue to do each year."
During the event orange wristbands with the words Forever Ellese were sold and the chance to release your own balloon was also offered.
Thousands of Hyndburn residents followed Ellese’s progress and helped her family to raise thousands of pounds for her possible treatment and research into her condition.
The day also managed to raise £470 for Ellese’s fund which has been used to make donations to Derian House Children’s Hospice, where Ellese spent her final days, and St Mary’s Church, Oswaldtwistle, where she was buried, as well as her much-loved school.
Her parents also intend to give £400 to the parents of Marti-Lee McDonagh, the six-year-old Oswaldtwistle schoolboy killed by meningitis just 24 hours after complaining of feeling ill.
Ellese’s story touched the heart of many and when the Observer heard about her condition we teamed up with Accrington Rotary Club’s We'll Fix It campaign to send her on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Euro Disney to meet her favourite Disney characters.
The tot was buried in her school uniform on Christmas Eve alongside her grandfather after a special Mass of Angels service at St Mary’s RC Church in Oswaldtwistle.