Emma Williams MBE – Founder/Trustee and CEO
Emma Williams is a single mum to Matthew aged 21 and Alice aged 19. Matthew started having seizures at the age of 9 months. No matter what medication was tried, Matthew‟s seizures got progressively worse as did the side effects of the drugs he was given. He suffered terrible brain damage as a result and his life was in danger on numerous occasions. When Matthew was just 2 years old Emma found out about the Ketogenic Diet but every time she asked Matthew‟s Neurologist to try the diet she was told that it didn’t work, it was disgusting and medication was the best option. Only when Matthew was 7 years old did she finally get the chance to get Matthew onto the diet thanks to the trial that Professor Helen Cross was carrying out at Great Ormond Street Hospital. Within 2 weeks of starting the diet Matthew’s seizures had reduced by 90% and within 8 months he was off all medication. The Ketogenic Diet was the best thing to ever happen to Matthew as his quality of life has had a 100% improvement. Matthew was weaned off the diet after 6 years and he maintains the good quality of life the diet gave him to this day. Emma discovered that the diet DID work, it was NOT disgusting, it was NOT difficult to do and for some people, medication does not always work and because of this she started the Matthew’s Friends Charity in 2004 to share her experiences with others, provide support and promote the use of the ketogenic diet for those suffering with intractable epilepsy. She knew that others in her situation were being told the same thing and they deserved the chance to make an informed choice.
Today Emma is one of the world‟s leading advocates for ketogenic dietary therapies and has worked full time in this field for over 14 years, as well as bringing up Matthew and Alice single handed. Not only does she have over 6 year’s personal experience of managing her own son with these diets, she has supported thousands of other families through Matthew‟s Friends and other ketogenic centres around the globe. She has written numerous magazine articles, featured in many television/radio interviews and co-authored several papers on the Ketogenic Dietary therapies with some of the leading Ketogenic medical experts from around the globe. Emma is invited to speak at a considerable number of International meetings and was the pioneer behind Nutricia’s global ‘Cooking with Ketocal’ Campaign. She is an International Patron for the ‘Diets for Epilepsy in India’ organisation and she is also the only non-medical member of the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE) Task Force for Dietary Therapies for Epilepsy.
She has served on the Executive Board of the Joint Epilepsy Council in the UK and is the current chair of Dravet Syndrome UK (the condition that Matthew was diagnosed with at the age of 14). With branches of Matthew’s Friends now registered in New Zealand and Canada, she works with her Country CEO’s to make sure that the mission of Matthew’s Friends is continued so that ketogenic dietary therapies are available to all those who may need them and could benefit from them. Emma continues her work and still supports families 7 days a week, 365 days a year and provides training and education to schools, hospices, respite centres and all those who request information. As ketogenic therapy progresses into other areas, Emma continues her work with professionals and families to ensure that training to provide ketogenic dietary therapies is extensive and always in the best interests of ‘those we serve’ – the families, which has always been Emma’s driving force. Matthew has recently celebrated his 21st Birthday and Alice is currently at Medical School studying to be a doctor.
2013 saw her awarded an MBE from Her Majesty the Queen for her services to Children with Epilepsy.
I absolutely love what I do, I have had the privilege to meet some truly amazing families over the years and I look forward to meeting many more. I also am very lucky to have an extremely dedicated team working at Matthew’s Friends and they really do put in so much hard work that all of what we have achieved would not be possible without them. However, we still have a long way to go and the work will never stop…
Julie Edwards – Deputy CEO/Trustee
When Emma asked me to help her set up Matthew’s Friends, little did I know what was in store for the future! Having seen the benefit of a (relatively) simple diet, completely transform my Godson Matthew’s life and the lives of his family, I was keen to help make a difference to the huge amount of families that could potentially benefit also. I am very proud of the difference our charity has made and continues to make, not only in supporting fragile families at a time of immense worry and fear, but in supporting the medical profession in treating those families too.
My responsibilities include managing the fund-raising events, general administration and also the conferences and training meetings we often host. There is never a dull moment at Matthew’s Friends and everything we do is about getting the very best outcome for the babies, children and adults, whether they have complex epilepsy, Glut1, a brain tumour, or any neurological disorder that may benefit from Ketogenic Dietary Therapies.
Julie likes to stay in the background as much as she can, but the truth of the matter is that she is the person that keeps everything together! I am normally out of the office or involved in one project or another, so Julie really does keep us all on track. I know that she is a massive help to families online and through social media as well and to be quite honest, without Julie we would not have come as far as we have as she puts in a huge amount of work. She has also been there for me throughout all of the ups and downs with Matthew and helped me to set up the charity. I am very proud to call her my best friend, confidant and Godmother to both Matthew and Alice.
Val Aldridge – Trustee/Senior Ketogenic Assistant
Val’s experience in nursing began in 1980 through roles in dental and auxiliary nursing. She qualified as an enrolled nurse in 1984, then as a registered nurse in 1990, quickly specialising in coronary care. She has 2 children Robyn and Greg. Greg’s seizures started when he was 4 and that is also when his behaviour changed. After 4 very difficult years, Val met Emma and learnt about the ketogenic diet. She also met Professor Cross on a surgical referral and when surgery was not an option, Greg was started on the MCT Ketogenic diet as part of the GOSH trial and it changed not only Greg’s life but the whole families, such was the improvement in Greg’s quality of life and seizure management.
Soon after this time, Emma contacted Val and asked if she would like to be involved with a charity she was thinking of starting up and Val readily agreed. 11 years on and Val is still a Trustee for the charity and now works very closely with our clinical team in the support of ketogenic patients in the MF Clinic, as well as training patients, carers and families in the implementation and management of ketogenic therapy.
She has gained a wealth of experience in implementing dietary therapies both personally with Greg and through supporting our families. She has also gained a vocational certificate in epilepsy care via distance learning to gain a broader knowledge of epilepsy.
Greg wouldn’t be the person he is now, if he hadn’t had the chance to go on the diet and when I see him enjoying his life and taking part in all the sports that he loves so much, it makes me very passionate that everyone should be given the same chance he had and that is why I love what I do at Matthew’s Friends
Teresa Stein – Office Manager/Administration/Accounts
Teresa works half time for the charity and half time for our MF Clinics. She is responsible for looking after and organising our patient clinics as well as helping with the organisation of events, accounts and training meetings for the charity. She is an extremely busy lady and keeps us all in check!
Sam Doe – Charity Administration Assistant
Sam volunteered for the charity in the early days, helping out where she could, but as the charity got larger, it became apparent regular support and help was essential to continue with our work. Sam works 10 hours a week in the MF office supporting the fundraising activities, getting resources ready for meetings and sending information out to families and ketogenic centres around the UK and Ireland.
Maureen Benn (Mo) – Keto Cook
Maureen has an extensive background in cooking and hotel catering and as a keen supporter of Matthew’s Friends, 3 years ago she combined her passion for food and her support of our charity, joining Neil (Keto chef) in being a ketocook for us. Mo is responsible for recipe development and also helps families that are struggling to make tasty meals using their prescriptions. You can see Maureen demonstrating some of her recipes on our keto cooking channel.
Neil Palliser-Bosomworth (Chef Neil) – Keto Chef
Neil Palliser-Bosomworth is an independent consultant chef with 19 years of experience working in various NHS hospitals in the UK, catering for different patient groups and their unique dietary needs. He has also worked as head chef at the Marie Curie Hospice and St Oswalds Hospice. About 9 years ago he was introduced to our founder, Emma, as she had pioneered the cooking with Ketocal range for Nutricia. Neil and Emma spent a great deal of time together as she took him through the ketogenic diet and all that it entailed. Neil has since flown with this and ketogenic dietary therapies are now one of his specialities. He carries out Nutricia ketocooking days all over the UK and also works with Mo in our recipe development kitchen. Neil regularly travels abroad to demonstrate cooking with ketocal and can be found at Matthew’s Friends meetings. You can see Neil in action on our ketocooking channel.
More members of the MF Team:
Left to right:
Keto-Cook Mo (read more about her in the KetoKitchen area of the website)
Gail Hall – Regional Co-ordinator for the North East
Vanessa Jones – Regional Co-ordinator for the South West
Teresa Stein – Office Manager – MF Clinics/Charity
Val Aldridge – Senior Ketogenic Assistant
Chef Neil – (Read more about Neil in our Ketokitchen area of the website)
Kate Allsop – Regional Co-ordinator for the Midlands.
We have an extremely dedicated team of Trustees who have been with us for a considerable amount of time. Our thanks go to them for their continued support and work.