The Catherine McEwan Foundation are thrilled to announce our first ever ambassador… former Scotland manager Alex McLeish.
The legendary player, manager and pundit has a close family connection with our Crohn’s and Colitis charity, as his sons Jon and Jamie suffer from Colitis and they have long been big supporters of the Foundation and our work.
And Alex insists becoming the first ever ambassador for the Foundation is as big an honour as any of those he won during his glittering career.
He said: “I know Derek and the McEwan family well so it’s great to be invited on board as an ambassador and I’m sure it could be more than that along the way.
“I’ll certainly be regarding the Catherine McEwan Foundation as one of my priorities and I will help the charity as much as possible by promoting it, raising awareness and I will do anything they want me to and anything I can do.
“I’ve had a lot of awards in my career and not a bad football career, winning medals and stuff, but this is right up there with those things in terms of what it means to me. It is as important as anything in my working life.
“It means every bit as much and is something that I will absolutely give everything to 100%.
“It’s very much a Scottish charity for Scottish people which I love. It is an amazing organisation, The Catherine McEwan Foundation, it’s off the scale fantastic.
“What they’ve done over the years is amazing and I’m proud to be a part of that and my son Jon has been a big part of it as well.
“He got me on board as an ambassador and I will strive to help with awareness and everything else I can do.”
Catherine McEwan Foundation founder Derek McEwan said: “We are thrilled to welcome Alex to the Foundation as our first ambassador.
“The family are close friends and long-term supporters, part of the Foundation family so when Jon told us his dad would like to help we were blown away.
“Alex is a massive international figure so to have his support means the world to us.
“He is hugely enthusiastic about working with us and we are very excited and honoured to welcome him to the Foundation family.”
Alex is pleased to see awareness of the conditions has increased already since his boys were diagnosed – but knows there is a long way to go.
He feels that the work of the Foundation, of people like his sons and footballers like Darren Fletcher can only be a good thing in removing the stigma about discussing conditions like Crohn’s and Colitis.
“Absolutely, the way that the illness has come to the fore in recent years is a positive thing in terms of awareness. The fundraising people do has definitely inspired me. And people have showed you can live with these conditions.
“When I see footballers going through it and they can come out the other side that is inspirational and raising awareness for the actual illness, it is fantastic to be part of it.
“The awareness factor has been really high profile now. When you think of Fletcher and Lallana a lot of these guys have been on TV regularly and helped make people aware of it.
“Darren Fletcher missed a few months or maybe a season and to come back to a level that he came back to was quite an amazing feat – you think most people can’t do it but this just shows that folk can come out the other side and keep raising awareness and funds to get to the bottom of why it happens.
“It’s amazing the amount of people you meet and they tell you that they have a stomach illness, whether Crohn’s and Colitis. It’s quite remarkable and I think that hit the nail in the head – people don’t like to talk about it, it’s not like breaking your arm, it’s very private.”
Alex and wife Jill saw first-hand what it’s like living with these illnesses when their boys were struck down out of the blue.
And their inspirational battling of the conditions, and subsequent fundraising efforts, inspired Alex to join us at the Catherine McEwan Foundation.
“Jon was the first victim, then Jamie… it just seemed to come from nowhere and they battled with it. I could see when they visited us or we visited them how horrible it was. “Jamie went as far as getting a stoma bag and the thing was the great technology now means that it can be reversible – he did this for what seemed like an eternity.
“I think Darren Fletcher did the same. He is inspirational and my two boys are my inspiration as well. They have come through so much .
“It was painful for Jill and I as parents to watch our sons go through that. When you see them suffer you also feel the emotions and pain.
“Through the boys it was a devastating feeling in the family. Jill and I, none of us had it before, we were desperately looking at the family tree but again nobody talked about it back in the day.
“We were looking to remember if any grans or grandads could have had it but they probably wouldn’t even have mentioned it if they did.
“I’m really proud of both Jon and Jamie. Jon being the organiser of the dinner at Manchester United with Sir Alex and David Moyes and other people in the football industry, a lot of the Man Utd boys and I thought ‘wow, my son organised this’. It was such a proud moment and a proud night for his dad.”
Alex was introduced to some of supporters at a special event at the Radisson RED Glasgow – another big ally of the Foundation – this week, with performances from The Alex Rankin Quartet and Raymond Mearns.