Branch Out Neurological Foundation
Our Story Why We Exist
Back in 2005, only months after learning she was an early hopeful for the 2010 Olympics speed skating team, Crystal Phillips got another piece of news that would change her life.
At 19 years old, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), a condition that causes irreversible deterioration of the nervous system. She was told she would probably never skate again. “[Prior to my diagnosis,] I felt extremely resilient and somewhat unstoppable,” she says.
With the determination of an elite athlete and after several months of therapy, Phillips found the strength to tie up her skates and start competing again, until she had a major relapse in 2006 and then again in 2009. After years of drug therapy with harsh side effects and little to no impact on her unpredictable disease, Phillips decided to take a more natural approach by focusing on nutrition, herbal medicine, massage, some acupuncture, chiropractic and neurofeedback training.
“Not only did I feel better, but it made sense to me,” she says. In the five years she has been off of conventional treatments, Phillips, now 29, has not relapsed. “I realized that there were a few gaps in the system: a lack of high-quality research, awareness and credibility for some of the more natural approaches to healing the nervous system,” she says.
To fill those gaps, Phillips, along with co-founder Graham Daw, started the Branch Out Neurological Foundation in 2010 with the goal of funding a new field of study they called neuroCAM (neuroscience + Complementary and Alternative Modalities). Branch Out is operated by Phillips and more than 50 dedicated volunteers who raise money exclusively through fundraising events like a major bike tour and snowshoe tour. In Branch Out's 6th year, they hit their second million-dollar fundraising milestone and are currently funding over 50students’ neuroCAM research at universities, mostly in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
While Phillips didn’t set out to be a rebel in the medical world, she is making changes. “It’s more a matter of working with the current medical system so there’s research in all the areas of therapy and medicine,” she says.
Phillips hopes the neuroCAM research will help make the future a little brighter for the hundreds of thousands of Canadians living with neurological disorders.
“To this day, I never picture myself in a wheelchair,” says Phillips. “I don’t believe that will be my future.” Instead, she envisions a future where, within the next 10 years, Calgary is home to a world-renowned neuroCAM research centre. — Nicole Halloran, Top 40 Under 40, Impact Magazine
Our Impact What We Do
"There are over 600 neurological disorders that effect nearly 20% of the world's population! I am not alone and that is why I started the Branch Out Foundation, to Branch Out and fund neuroCAM research" - Crystal Phillips -MS patient, Co-Founder, Executive Director
Our Research Grant Programs are at the heart of Branch Out. Every time you donate, we are able to fund more world class research into a new field of neuroscience that we've termed neuroCAM (neuroscience + complementary and alternative modalities). Beyond treatment with pharmaceutical solutions, for which there is plenty of promising ongoing research projects, we believe that additional promise lies in the expert study of the interconnectedness and interplay of mind and body.
NeuroCAM is a much needed new Field of Neuroscience Research. It fills a gap by accelerating tech solutions and non-pharmaceutical approaches for neurological disorders such as Parkinsons, Alzheimers, Concussion, Multiple Sclerosis, Depression, Autism etc.
- To date, we have raised nearly 2 million dollars for peer-reviewed scientific research into innovative technologies and non-pharmaceutical approaches to healing neurological disorders such as Parkinsons, MS, depression, concussion, epilepsy etc.
- In our first year, we raised $40,000 dollars and in our sixth year, over $400,000.
- We have funded over 5 undergraduate, masters and PhD research programs.
- We have hosted five "Neuron Night" events where neuroCAM research is translated to the general public.
- neuroCAM is now an emerging field of study in Universities across Canada.
Our Programs How We Do It
We have funded 62 neuroCAM research projects from an Undergraduate to Principle Investigator level. Every project funded is peer reviewed by a Scientific Review Panel consisting of top neuroscientists from across Canada. They ensure the quality of the research, feasibility, impact and quality of the applicant to determine which research projects they reccommend for funding. Click here to see a full list of the research projects we've funded.
By 2018, we will host our first Global NeuroCAM Summit in Banff, with a focus on Brain Aging.
Calgary NeuroCAM Research Centre
By 2020, we will establish the first neuroCAM Research Center in Calgary, Alberta. It will be collaborative with other industries including tech, art, finance, engineering etc. There will be a strong focus on tech solutions and it will support research from the basic science level all the way to the translational level, where research impacts people directly.
To raise funds, we host an annual Branch Out Bike Tour attracting 500 participants of all ages and abilities (including Olympic athletes!) and an annual Branch Out Snowshoe Tour attracting 150 participants (and their dogs!). We also love getting involved in supporting events organized by groups with great fundraising ideas and a passion for Brain Health. Building off of the enagement from our events and gaining interest in our future plans, has lead us to forming large corporate sponsorships, philanthropic donations and social enterprise partnerships.
Our Requests What You Can Do
FIVE WAYS TO GET INVOLVED:
1. Become a "Branchy"! That's our name for all of our Branch Out supporters:
- Become one of 150 new monthly donors of 2017, in celebration of Canada's 150th! (monthly prizes to be won!)
- Volunteer or participate in upcoming events
- Make a donation on our website to advance neuroCAM research
- Hire a neuroscientist to come to your office and engage your emlpoyees in a fun-filled neuro trivia challenge
- Donate prizes, silents aution items or probono services
For more information, please contact our fearless leader, Crystal Phillips directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 403-200-0494.
2. Sign up for the LEAFlet Newsletter: Stay up to date the latest on Branch Out events and research, and other insane in the membrane stuff!
3. Take Part in an Event: The most fun you can have supporting Branch Out. Learn what exciting activities are around the corner.
4. Volunteer:See what volunteer options are currently available. We always need helping hands willing to promote brains at their best.