Brad s riding for a mate
Shane Ellis, left, his son Brad and Sue Gillam. Picture: Ian Munro/ The West Australian

Inspired by the fundraising feat of an AFL champion, Brad Ellis will this week embark on a gruelling solo bike ride in memory of a late mate.

It is more than three years since Mitch Gillam died in a Bali scooter accident, one of three tragic deaths of young men that struck the Bullcreek-Leeming Football Club in less than a year.

But after last year watching 2008 Hawthorn premiership star and Brownlow medallist Shane Crawford raise more that $1.3 million for the Breast Cancer Network Australia with a 3600km ride from Melbourne to Perth, Mr Ellis saw a chance to bring meaning to his former football teammate's sudden death.

The 23-year-old son of former West Coast and East Fremantle defender Shane Ellis will leave Adelaide on Friday for a 2700km ride he hopes will finish back in Perth on June 7.

His version of what became known as the "Tour de Crawf" will raise funds for the Mitch Gillam Foundation, set up to help underprivileged people in the eastern Balinese mountains of Seraya.

Mr Ellis said barely a day passed when he was not motivated by his friend's death.

"It's a huge opportunity, I guess, to get out there and ride for my mate," Mr Ellis said.

"It was pretty shattering, losing a close mate like that and it definitely makes you think about life a bit more and living it to the most that you can.

"That's what he did, a lot of people have learnt from him and I can't wait to do something a little bit crazy in his honour."

Mr Ellis, who has ridden more than 4000km in his five-month preparation, said he had decided to start the ride in South Australia as Mr Gillam had been an Adelaide Crows fan.

The course will run through Kalgoorlie, as his friend had also played for Railways in the Goldfields.

"It's nice to try and tie a lot of things from his life into one ride," he said. "It's a bit symbolic and all for a good cause for what his parents are doing up in Bali. Their strength in turning a tragedy into something so positive has been an inspiration to me as well."

The Mitch Gillam project has already raised more than $200,000, which has helped build more than 100 homes for people in Seraya.

Mr Gillam's mother Sue could barely find words to explain her gratitude for Mr Ellis' ride offer, but said the compassion was typical of her late son's friends.

"It's amazing, I just can't believe what he's doing . . . what a guy," Mrs Gillam, who will be part of Mr Ellis' road crew, said.

"I'm continually surprised by how amazing all Mitch's friends have been throughout this whole thing, but what Brad is doing is just huge.

"We've been overwhelmed by the support we've had and it just keeps going on and on. It's testament to all these beautiful young men who were friends with my son. I probably never told Mitch enough how proud of him I was, so the project is my way of showing him now."

Mrs Gillam said she and her husband Ken had decided to try to help the Balinese people after they had shown them such kindness at what she described as "the worst time of our lives".

Former Bullcreek-Leeming players now in the AFL, including Garrick Ibbotson, Rhys Palmer, Kyle Hardingham, Jason Johannissen and Jarred Jansen, have all also donated signed jumpers to raise money for the foundation.

The West Australian

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