Meet our ambassadors

Ambassadors are our most valued awareness raisers and fundraisers.

All ambassadors are members of MRF have experience of meningitis and are working with MRF to defeat this disease.

Dawn Whiteman

Dawn lost her granddaughter, Maya Ford, on 2nd August 2012, aged just 21 months. Maya passed away from meningitis very suddenly – in just 16 hours. 

“She was our world, our life, our everything… we will never forget that day, our family will never be the same without her in our lives. We don’t want other families to endure the same pain and heartbreak that we are going through, so until I take my last breath I will raise money for this great cause.”

Dawn became our ambassador in November 2013. Since Maya sadly passed away, Dawn and her friends and family have raised an incredible £75,600 as of November 2015. Dawn is known for taking over Northumberland Heath High Street during Awareness Week to educate shoppers about the symptoms, as well organising a number of annual fundraising events, including Banger racing, Golf Days and auctioning chocolate hampers.

Dawn has also organised Maya’s ball and a pamper and clairvoyant evening.

Dawn ran the Brighton half marathon and Reading half marathon, and contributed to the success of our #WheresOurVaccine campaign by writing to her local MP. She decorates a yearly Maya’s Meningitis Awareness Christmas Tree to go in Christ Church Christmas Tree Festival, and organises Carols for Maya.

"We don’t want other families to endure the same pain and heartbreak that we are going through." - Dawn Whiteman

Catherine Aithal

"In 2001, my nephew died from pneumococcal meningitis when he was just 3 years old. I then started doing crazy fundraising things for MRF (jumping out of planes, long cycle rides, running the London Marathon) and when they started the ambassadors’ scheme I was excited to join in. My aim is, by raising awareness, to try and stop any other family going through the heart break we have had to endure.

"The most rewarding thing for me is when every time I do a speech or talk at a school about my experiences. I have people say to me how much more knowledgable about the disease and symptoms they are now, or they go and have their kids vaccinated. That's when I feel as though I’ve made a difference

"I have learned the amazing resilience of people who have suffered the loss of their loved ones or their loved ones have suffered life changing consequences after contracting meningitis. Quite simply, I have been blown away by the love, care and passion they have for making a difference, for being part of MRF and doing so much to try to ensure other families don’t suffer in the same way they have.

"Being an ambassador is an incredibly fulfilling role. I have been able to do it whilst jugging the arrival of 3 children and working full time. MRF are not a pushy charity, rather they allow you to fulfil as little or as much of the role as you wish. They are always there to help you and support you in whatever you decide to do, be that an awareness talk, fundraising or talking to the press."

Catherine lives in Oxfordshire.

"My aim is, by raising awareness, to try and stop any other family going through the heart break we have had to endure." - Catherine Aithal

Ian Alexander

"In April 2016, I ran the London Marathon for another charity and was looking at raising funds for a charity that was close to my heart. During the race I noticed MRF vests and being a survivor of meningitis myself, this charity could be one I support. I got the contact details off the website and made contact. Initially, I was only going to raise funds for the charity. However, when I received the welcome pack I read about other opportunities and one of the opportunities that I saw was to become an ambassador. I made enquiries and thought that would be good for me to do. I became an ambassador on 4th of September and I love every minute of it.

"The work is varied and you get as much support as you want or need. You really are the eyes and ears of the charity. One week you might put on a fundraising night, the following week you might be cheering runners on and then you might do a series of talks. That is not all we do as ambassadors but there are many options and opportunities. I love being an ambassador.

"I started the London Marathon for MRF in April and at the 5 mile mark she was there with mum and dad to thank me. Unfortunately, I was injured at 3 miles and carried on to 15 miles before being stopped by following medical advice from St John Ambulance. The thanks was better than finishing the Marathon.

"I love working as an ambassador for this charity. I find working as an ambassador extremely rewarding and when I put on my purple t-shirt and ambassador badge I feel so privileged, proud and honoured to represent this great charity."

Ian lives in Stevenage, Hertfordshire.

"I feel so privileged, proud and honoured to represent this great charity." - Ian Alexander

Sarah Bailey

"I became an ambassador to help raise awareness amongst our local community.

"The highlight of this program has been visiting the Houses of Parliament in 2012 to meet with our MPs to campaign for the MenB vaccine.

"Me and my family think it that being an ambassador is a very valuable support role for others, as well as helping to raise awareness.

"People can read the story of my daughter, Ella (pictured), in the Book of Expereince. Treatment is still ongoing 19 years later."

Sarah lives in South Gloucestershire.

"Me and my family think it that being an ambassador is a very valuable support role for others, as well as helping to raise awareness." - Sarah Bailey

Laura Beattie

"I was honoured to be asked to become an ambassador. Raising awareness of meningitis and septicaemia is something I became passionate about following my daughter’s illness as a baby. Her symptoms were dismissed by both midwives and a GP, it became clear to me that more awareness for the general public and health care professionals is needed to ensure treatment is started quickly.

"I have given awareness talks to nursing students, childcare students and girl guiding leaders. The feedback after the events has always been positive with everyone learning something new about the symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia, I hope that this new knowledge will help someone spot the signs and symptoms should they come across these horrible diseases.
 
"I have now become more aware and knowledgable of the different strains of meningitis and septicaemia and the success of vaccines in preventing those which were previously most prevalent. I hope that the development of new vaccines continues to be as successful as previous vaccines.

"I would recommend becoming an ambassador, it has made me more confident in approaching organisations to give awareness talks. Meeting the other ambassadors was emotional and humbling, hearing others stories reminded me of how lucky I am that my daughter survived.

"Meningitis has touched my life twice with the death of my friend in 1998 and my daughter’s illness in 2010."

Laura lives in Scotland.

"Raising awareness of meningitis and septicaemia is something I became passionate about following my daughter’s illness as a baby." - Laura Beattie

Amy Jenkins

"I decided to become an ambassador after MRF had supported me and my family through all the tough times after I had meningitis in 2011. The help and support they provided me with was invaluable and made such a difference that I wanted to give that to others going through what I did.

"The most rewarding part for me was being a befriender. Being able to talk to someone who is in the early stages after meningitis was amazing. I hope I provided them with some tips with prosthetics and also showed them that life does go on after meningitis and limb loss.

"I think the main thing that surprised me was meeting some amazing children at the Pushing the Boundaries day and seeing how well they have adapted after meningitis. It was truly inspiring!

"I would absolutely recommend anyone to become an ambassador. The team at MRF are so supportive and you get to meet some inspirational people, and educate others on meningitis."

Amy lives in Fleet, Hampshire.

"I wanted to give that to others going through what I did." - Amy Davis

Christine Etheridge

"I decided to become an Ambassador after Ben, my son, then 4 years old, contracted meningococcal septicaemia in 2004.

"The most rewarding part of being an ambassador is the befriending service and giving talks to groups/schools and colleges about awareness. The most surprising thing that I have learnt about being an ambassador, is how many people are actually affected by meningitis.

"I would definitely recommend becoming an ambassador to others. Mainly because, the rewards are astonishing. The number of people affected is incredible when you get talking to people.

"I have been an ambassador since 2004 ish. But I can’t always do as much as I used to. However, there is never any pressure to do more. I do what I can as a single parent with my own 50 hour a week business, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

"The people at MRF are fantastically dedicated and caring. But they also understand that us ambassadors have limitations. The answer to any new ambassadors who may read this is simply to do what you can, when you can!"

Christine lives in Cheshire.

"The most rewarding part of being an ambassador is the befriending service and giving talks to groups/schools and colleges about awareness." - Christine Etheridge

Sue Fishburn

"I decided to become an ambasssador because of all the support I’d had when my son Ben had menB at the age of 23. Shirley from MRF kept in touch with questionnaire afterwards and she and Laurie asked me if I’d consider being an ambassador, the rest is history!

"The most rewarding part has been meeting other people who have been through the very same thing. The empathy and friendship is incredible, even though the outcomes can be very different. Sharing experiences and hopefully helping each other out. I’ve done fundraising, symptom awareness talks and attended others’ fundraising events as an ambassador. I’ve done The Great North Run twice and Ben has done it 3 times for MRF.

"At first, I was surprised at the wide age range of people affected. I must confess, like so many others I thought it affected children and student ages only. Ben had just left uni so I classed him in the student category, especially as he had been on a reunion weekend with student friends when he took poorly.

"I recommend becoming an ambassador to any one who wants to share knowledge and to listen to other's stories. It does help.

"Ben had just got engaged to his girlfriend Sarah at the time. He was a post grad doing his ACA. He was in coma for 11 days, hospital for a further 3 weeks and 6 months in occ and physiology therapy. The ilness resulted in deafness in one ear. However, Ben and Sarah married a year later and Ben qualified as a chartered accountant. They now live in North Carolina with their 6 children, aged 12 to 18 months.

"Sam, their eldest, has done a presentation at his school to his class on meningitis and symptom awareness followed up using our supplies that I sent out to him. He knew his dad had had MenB but did the project research of his own accord. The message goes worldwide in small steps by young voices. I still choke back tears thinking how close we came to loosing Ben and then looking at what he has achieved in the last 17 years."

Sue lives in Darlington in County Durham.

"The most rewarding part has been meeting other people who have been through the very same thing. The empathy and friendship is incredible" - Sue Fishburn

Charlotte Hannibal

"I saw an opportunity to contribute to the fight against meningitis.

"Hearing stories about people’s friends or relatives who got themselves vaccinated against meningitis after hearing me speak about the need to get it done has been most rewarding! Also, seeing people protect themselves against the disease following something I have said is something that continues to blow my mind!

"I’ve had the opportunity to learn some of the science behind the disease I was subject to, which I am incredibly grateful for. Continuing to learn more about my medical conditions and why they happen helps me deal with the difficulties that can arise from my chronic illness.

"I’ve also learned that after my recovery, I suddenly started enjoying public speaking! It’s a skill the MRF team got me to try out, and I can’t thank them enough, as it has opened up a whole new world for me, and given me so much confidence!

"I would absolutely recommend the ambassador program! The experiences that I’ve been involved in have been so rewarding and enjoyable, and I feel consistently supported by the charity’s team."

Charlotte lives in Nottinghamshire.

" Seeing people protect themselves against the disease following something I have said is something that continues to blow my mind!" - Charlotte Hannibal

Melinda Lancaster

"It had been very important to us from the beginning of Amelia's illness to help in any way we could to raise awareness about meningitis.

"From letting student doctors be allowed to observe her treatment, to allowing photos to be taken pre and post op for many of the treatments she has endured or by telling our story to anyone who was willing to listen.

"One of the most rewarding things about being an Ambassador has been the amazing friends and support network we have made through the charity. It has helped us feel less alone and it feels great to know all the interviews and pushing for the menB vaccine to become routine was worth it in the end. We had a voice and we all made a difference together.

"One of the most surprising things to me was learning how many different after effects there can be and how each and every case is so different and nothing is ever straight forward when it comes to the disease. Amelia first took ill 8 years ago and we're still learning new effects it has had on her body and trying to correct other issues it has caused. It feels like a gift that keeps giving but not one you want.

"I would definitely recommend it to others it's has been an amazing experience over the years and I love the MRF family."

Melinda lives in North Yorkshire.

"One of the most rewarding things about being an Ambassador has been the amazing friends and support network we have made through the charity. " - Melinda Lancaster

Gemma Lessels

"Matthew and I were asked to become ambassadors by the ladies in the Scotland office. Before that we had done lots of media work for the charity and thought that the term ambassador would legitimise our work and help with spreading as much awareness as possible.

"There are two things I am particularly proud of -  Matthew becoming the first junior ambassador in Scotland and - the campaign to get the MenB vaccine rolled out to babies. Whilst I personally don’t think it is enough, nonetheless, it was a huge step in the right direction.

"I’m not sure about what I found most surprising after joining! We were quite actively involved with the charity prior to becoming ambassadors and I had done some papers on meningitis and it’s after effects for college and university! 

"I  think ambassadors are vital to the work of the charity and whilst due to personal circumstances, we haven’t been as involved in the last 12 months as we would like, we know that we are prepared to continue spreading awareness!"

Gemma moved to Gainsborough in Lincolnshire last year, and will shortly be moving to Witnernsea in the East Riding of Yorkshire area. If you are anywhere near, please contact her to team up and help raising awareness in a new area!

"There are two things I am particularly proud of - Matthew becoming the first junior ambassador in Scotland and - the campaign to get the MenB vaccine rolled out to babies." - Gemma Lessels

Helen Lever

"I suffered from meningitis at the age of 16 and so I wanted to give back to MRF, who helped me and my family during and after this difficult time. I also wanted to help spread awareness of the symptoms in order for others to be able to spot the signs of the illness at an early stage, which is crucial in order to survive it.

"The highlight of being an ambassador has been running the London Marathon for MRF.

"After becoming an ambassador, I was most surprised by the cost of meningitis for the government, which I found out about thanks to the MRF's 'Counting the Costs' campaign.

"I would recommend becoming an ambassador, so long as you are passionate about the cause. It would also be helpful if you had some sort of link with the illness, as having a personal story makes a difference to many parts of the role and is helpful for motivation."

Helen lives in Oxford.

"The highlight of being an ambassador has been running the London Marathon for MRF." - Helen Lever

Melanie McHugh

"I was asked to be an ambassador a few years ago and jumped at the chance to become even more involved with this fantastic charity. It also gives me the opportunity to keep people in my local area updated with MRF news.

"The most rewarding thing I have been involved in as an ambassador has been taking information packs to schools, colleges and hospitals. Through doing this I am ensuring that these people have up to date information of the disease and spreading awareness, which I feel is very important.

"I have learned the power of social media and the kindness of other people who are very supportive of what I am doing.

"I would highly recommend the program to anyone. To me, it is one of the most satisfying aspects of my life and I absolutely love being a part of this charity."

Mel lives in Southmead in Bristol.

"I have learned the power of social media and the kindness of other people who are very supportive of what I am doing." - Melanie McHugh

Sam Patterson

"I became an ambassador following the death of my son, Alex, in 2015. He was 11 months old.

"The most rewarding thing about being an ambassador is speaking to individuals and teaching them something new about the symptoms or vaccinations that are available - when they leave you saying that they are going to spread the word or get their children vaccinated then that is what really makes a difference.

"I have been part of many events as an ambassador - tv and radio interviews, fundraising activities, awareness events - and I am continually taken aback by the number of people who approach me to tell me their own meningitis story. It really does affect far more people than you think.

 "I would really recommend becoming an ambassador. It is a great community of people who have a variety of experiences, but who are all passionate about the same thing. It makes for a very inspiring group!"

Sam lives in Cambridge with her husband and other two boys, Callum (6) and Leo (2). She runs a Beaver Colony and loves Triathlons. She did Challenge Denmark (half Ironman) to fundraise in memory of Alex.

"When they leave you saying that they are going to spread the word or get their children vaccinated then that is what really makes a difference." - Sam Patterson

Alan Smith

"I became an ambassador just to try and help out, I was lucky enough to make it through the illness myself, so I wanted to help a little in return.

"The most rewarding thing about it is knowing that you have tried your best to help people understand what meningitis is and how it can affect you.

"It was surprising to realise how many people have actually been affected by the disease, yet how little some of the general public know about it.

"I would definitely recommend becoming an ambassador."

Alan lives in Loanhead, Midlothian – on the edge of Edinburgh. As part of a group at his work, they hold the World Record for the biggest ever game of 'What's the time, Mr. Wolf?'!

"The most rewarding thing about it is knowing that you have tried your best to help people understand what meningitis is and how it can affect you." - Alan Smith

Dianne Spalding

"I became an aqmbassador after the sudden death of my husband John in December 2014.

"John was a GP and first became ill at 3am on the 23rd of December with a temperature. He continued having little more than a temperature and feeling mildly sick until he woke at 1pm the next day. I went up into the bedroom to see him and immediately exclaimed to call an ambulance. He continued to deteriorate rapidly until he eventually died. His cause of death was of MenW, which attacks all age groups and is vicious.

"I have since learnt a lot about meningitis through MRF and I can score 10/10 on recognising all the symptoms. However, I do realise, that John did not present all the alerting symptoms, that would make you consider meningitis straight away. He was an experienced GP and I was a physiotherapist, but even so, I’m not sure that I would recognise it if it had happened to me again.

"MRF have been very supportive to myself and our 3 boys and they have helped me to learn and understand more about the disease. I decided to become an ambassador to increase awareness and encourage people at risk to get vaccinated, as I believe this is the best way forward. John, a passionate doctor, would want me to do this if it could possibly save other families from going  through our experience.

"I have found that going to schools and universities to encourage the uptake of the MenACYW vaccine very rewarding. I am now involved in the research project, 'B on the Team'. Anything that can be done to make people aware of meningitis and the vaccination programme is vital.

"As an ambassador, I have met several survivors of meningitis and I am in awe of their strength and resilience. Also, I have met other families who have lost a loved one to meningitis and they are passionate about trying to prevent unnecessary deaths or disabilities through the disease.

"Being an ambassador allows you to meet others with similar experiences and see how positive they are. It also allows you to become an engaged and useful member of society at a time in your life when you wanted to hide away."

Dianne lives in Worcester.

"John, a passionate doctor, would want me to do this if it could possibly save other families from going through our experience." - Dianne Spalding

Julie Tucker

"I became an ambassador having been asked directly by MRF, further to having done a few fundraising events after the tragic death of my brother-in-law, Marcel, from meningitis on Boxing Day 2009.

"The most rewarding thing for me has been being a tiny cog in the MenB campaign wheel and the joy we felt when we learned it had been approved by Parliament. Also, meeting so many inspirational people who have survived meningitis and gone on to do amazing things.

"What has surprised me the most is just how many people’s lives have been touched by meningitis. So many people have a meningitis story to tell of a brother, a mum, a friend at uni... It’s very sad.

"I would absolutely recommend becoming an ambassador to other people. For me it’s about trying to prevent another family from having to go through what mine did. If what I’ve done as an ambassador has helped saved just one life then what more could anyone want?"

Julie lives in London.

"The most rewarding thing for me has been being a tiny cog in the MenB campaign wheel and the joy we felt when we learned it had been approved by Parliament" - Julie Tucker

Gina Weston

"The loss of two of my sons to meningitis, Joe aged 8 weeks and Ryan aged 19 years was the reason for throwing myself into fundraising for the Foundation. I felt that in memory of my boys I needed to raise awareness of this dreadful disease.

"Together with friends and family, we have raised over £127,000 so far and will continue to do so in memory of all those affected by meningitis.

"The most rewarding aspect of being an ambassador is to represent the Foundation at fundraising events, to give general support as well as awareness talks and to gratefully accept any donations.

"I would recommend this program to anyone who can give up a bit of their free time to occasionally be part of a great team all striving for the same cause.

"To see the MenB vaccine become approved was an incredibly emotional time for me and my family. Sadly, it was too late for Ryan and it is still not freely available to all ages. That would be my wish if I was granted one, so that's why awareness is so important to me."

Gina lives in Norfolk.

"I felt that in memory of my boys I needed to raise awareness of this dreadful disease." - Gina Weston

Martin Yaxley

"I had meningitis at a very young age, which resulted in complete loss of hearing in my right ear. As I got older, I realised that I wanted to give back and help raise awareness about meningitis and so I became an ambassador.

"The most rewarding thing to date has been meeting different people that have a personal link to the foundation. Some of which have told me their stories, which had been untold before.

"The thing that has surprised me (in a good way) about being an ambassador, is how open everyone has been when it comes to learning and finding out more about meningitis. Also, I was surprised by the amount of people out there that want to do their bit to raise money for the charity.

"I would without a doubt recommend becoming an ambassador. If you're passionate and want to do your part, then go for it."

Martin lives in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk. He is a keen runner who was able to fulfill his dream of participating in the Virgin London Marathon of 2018. Besides running, he is a self proclaimed geek when it comes to reading about superheroes and collecting graphic novels/comics. Ever since he was a young boy is favourite superhero has been Batman.

"I realised that I wanted to give back and help raise awareness about meningitis and so I became an ambassador" - Martin Yaxley

Share this
Become a member
Become a member
MRF membership is open to all who have experienced meningitis
Membership and support

The MRF Membership and Support team are here for you for any questions you might have about meningitis and septicaemia and their effects on you, or your family and friends.

Tel: Helpline UK 080 8800 3344 Ireland 1800 41 33 44

Ways you can help

Please do what you can today and help save and change the lives of thousands