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A brother's Christmas tribute

23rd December 2023

This Christmas Day Ashley Gray will run a marathon instead of celebrating Christmas with his family.

Ashley Gray blog pic

"I hope that by doing running on Christmas Day it will help raise as much awareness of meningitis as possible.”

Ashley’s step-brother, Matthew, died of Meningococcal septicaemia in April 2023. For Ashley and his family, celebrating Christmas without Matthew just doesn’t feel right.

Instead of gathering to open presents and eat too much food, Ashley will use the Christmas Day marathon to honour and remember Matthew:

“My family and I have chosen not to celebrate Christmas this year but, seeing as it’s a time for families to be together, I think it’s the perfect day to do my run in memory of my brother. I hope that by running on Christmas Day it will help raise as much awareness as possible.”


Raising awareness of meningitis has become incredibly important to Ashley and his family, especially to his step-mum Sue, who has started a petition to create a duty of care law for seeking medical assistance when someone is ill and getting worse.

Very sadly Matthew suffered symptoms of meningitis for two days before he received medical attention, something the family hope never happens to another person. Ashley says:

“Sadly, the people who were with Matthew at the time of him falling ill left it too late to call for medical attention. He had been severely ill and had even become unconscious before he was finally admitted to hospital. We will never know if he could have survived if he'd been given correct medical help sooner.

“With any symptoms of meningitis, it is crucial to get help as soon as possible. It literally could mean the difference between survival or permanent damage or even death. This is why I want to help raise awareness of Sue’s petition as this hopefully could save many more lives in the future and prevent others suffering the way my brother did.”

Despite many attempts to save him, including seven bypasses, Matthew sadly died of the sepsis that had spread to his spinal cord and brain stem. There were only two days between Matthew first showing flu-like symptoms to passing away.

Raise awareness

At time of writing Sue’s petition has gained almost 75,000 signatures. And the family aren’t stopping there in their bid to raise awareness and funding.

Sue, Ashley and the rest of the family are now keen fundraisers for Meningitis Now. Ashley explains why:

“Meningitis Now have been working very closely with my family and supporting them in many ways. My youngest brother Zak has attended an event as part of their Believe & Achieve programme for young people which helped him find ways to deal with his grief. He is only 14 and has been offered many more opportunities and future events to look forward to.

“The charity also helped by giving my step-mum a call after we lost Matthew. They answered all of our questions about the illness and have signposted Sue to more support and are always on hand to give advice and information. They always help when they can.”

Never realised

Losing a family member can make you take stock of your own health and wellbeing. Ashley is a fit and healthy 32-year-old. He eats healthily, exercises regularly and never realised that, despite all this, he could still be at risk of getting meningitis:

“No matter how old you are or how healthy this awful illness can affect anyone at any age. I was unaware of this until I lost Matthew - I thought it was only young children that could be affected. It is close to my heart that people are more aware of how fast this illness hits and the symptoms of meningitis.”

As if one Christmas Day marathon wasn’t enough, it turns out that it is just a trial run for the London Marathon 2024, which Ashley will run to raise funds for Meningitis Now.

Running club

He says: “I started running around 3 months ago and it has become a massive part of my life. I have even started a running club in my local area where I will be looking to do yearly charitable events. I intend to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of meningitis by running the London Marathon in 2024.

“Meningitis Now have been working very closely with my family and supporting them in many ways so this is my way of saying thank you and doing my own bit to help raise funds for other families that need the support at a time when its needed the most.”

If you would like to support Ashley’s marathon efforts please visit his fundraising page.