Meningitis Now staff member Andy Hopkinson

Meningitis Now are Charity of the Year at Shakespeare’s school

Andy Hopkinson | 5th December 2022

Two A-level students at Shakespeare’s old school in Stratford-upon-Avon have proved themselves worthy successors to the Bard with their persuasive way with words

Meningitis Now are Charity of the Year at Shakespeare’s school

Katherine Muldoon and Job Estill, who are both 18 and have family experiences of meningitis, have successfully presented to the whole school assembly of around 900 people to get us selected as Charity of the Year at King Edward VI School (KES) in the town.

Katherine told us: “I lost my grandma Sylvia suddenly overnight to the disease. What we thought was an ear infection proved to be rapidly fatal as it was misdiagnosed. This is I’m sure one of many examples where even doctors have failed to pick up on the symptoms because they so closely resemble other illnesses, and are not thought of as a disease that affects the elderly. 

Mum reached out

“I became aware of Meningitis Now when my mum reached out to them for counselling after her mother passed. They provided her with excellent support, so I was very impressed by the charity and wanted to do something to help them out. 

“As I joined the sixth form I realised the power I had to spread awareness, being in a young student population who are about to go off to university. I decided to get in touch with Isobel from Meningitis Now, and she helped me to become an ambassador.”

Job added: “When I was 4, my Dad was hospitalised with pneumococcal meningitis, having initially been presumed to be suffering from an ear infection. He was only diagnosed at hospital. 

Keen to raise awareness 

“Since then my Dad has been keen to raise awareness of a disease that is so often undiagnosed and this has rubbed off on me too. Therefore, I felt it was important to support Meningitis Now on such a large scale at school.”

It was a competitive and complicated process to get us across the finishing line as the school’s Charity of the Year.

Katherine said: “We had to complete a form with a few details about why we wanted Meningitis Now as Charity of the Year, and what it meant to us and what it does. 

“Then this form was put to the school ambassadors (essentially the school council) and they decided which four out of around 20 of the charities nominated on the form should be shortlisted. 

Whole school assembly

“We were successfully shortlisted, so then had to prepare a speech to read out in the whole school assembly, in front of around 900 people! 

“After everyone had heard the speeches in assembly, each form (of which there are 24) nominated a charity. The charity that the most forms voted for won … and we were delighted that that was us.”

Katherine and Job had found themselves up against ‘Human rights in Iran’, ‘Acorns Children’s Hospice’ and ‘The Brain Tumour Charity’ but, despite being very nervous about standing up in front of the whole school knew they had to put a brave face on it. Job admitted: “Throughout the speech my legs were shaking, but the lectern covered it. Nonetheless, we both spoke well and it was clear we felt passionately for the cause.”

As well as sharing their family meningitis stories Katherine and Job spoke about the symptoms, how meningitis is spread and about the vaccines. 

Looking forward to Christmas ‘kestival’ 

“But we mainly stressed what the charity does and therefore where their money will be going. Many were shocked to hear that it was potentially deadly and to be honest really not a lot had heard about it before. Most of the teachers that I have spoken to have, but hardly any of the students.” 

Now the pair are looking forward to the school’s Christmas ‘kestival’ event, where every form plans an activity. The whole school has the afternoon off to walk round all of the stalls, such as a BBQ or bouncy castles. 

“It's always a really fun event and raises a lot for charity,” Katherine said. “I am personally going to run a stall to raise awareness with maybe a fun activity too to entice people. I am looking to help at more local events in the near future too, as well as potentially trying to organise some more things in school to help raise money for the charity. Also, there is a non-uniform day every term which raises around £1,500 each time.”

Thank everyone who voted for us

Katherine added “I would also like to say thank you to my mum, Louise, for being so supportive of everything I have done and always encouraging me and for introducing me to the charity. 

Then I would like to say thank you to everyone at KES who voted for us and especially a big thank you to Job too for all the hard work he put in for this. 

Finally, I would like to say a huge thank you to Isobel and the fundraising team at Meningitis Now who have helped me to become an ambassador and complete all of my activities for the charity and made me feel very involved with everything. You are a truly amazing team!

Job added: “I’d like to thank Katherine. I would not have been able to speak to the whole school on my own. Equally, the hospital staff who saved my Dad’s life 12 years ago, and the school for voting for the charity and hopefully taking part in the upcoming fundraising opportunities; I’m sure the money raised will make a significant difference.”

Thanks both for your support – we really appreciate it – and good luck with all the awareness-raising and fundraising activities you have planned.

Photo credit: John Cairns

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