Why We Exist
Back in 2005, only months after learning I was an early hopeful for the 2010 Olympics speed skating team, I received another piece of news that would change my life forever.
At 19 years old, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a degenerative neurological disorder with no cure. I was also told I would probably never speed skate again.
With that determination of an elite athlete, invincible teenage mindset and after several months of therapy, I found the strength to tie up my skates and start competing again. Although I could skate again, I had another major relapse in 2006 and again in 2009 when I was told my disease was progressing and I would become wheelchair bound in the coming years. After receiving this news and trying 5 years of drug therapies with harsh side effects and little to no impact on my disease, I decided to take a different, more natural approach by going off of my drug therapy and focusing on nutrition, herbal medicine, massage and other integrative approaches towards rebalancing my nervous system.
Not only did I feel better, but it made sense to me. 8 months after I went went off my drugs I came 6 spots off the Canadian Olympic team and 8 years later I am thriving with health, and am relapse/symptom free!
Throughout my personal journey, a few gaps became clear to me: a lack of high-quality research, credibility and funding for some of the more natural approaches to healing the nervous system.
To address these gaps, I, along with co-founder Graham Daw, started the Branch Out Neurological Foundation in 2010 to literally ‘Branch Out’ and establish a new and now emerging field of research termed neuroCAM (neuroscience + complementary and alternative modalities).
Myself along with 100+ dedicated volunteers raise money through fundraising events such as the Branch Out Bike Tour and Snowshoe Tour. We have been attracting new donors and sponsors and partner with businesses who are all eager to join our legacy to establish Calgary as a world renowned center for neuroCAM research.
This past June, the foundation hit its second million-dollar fundraising milestone. NeuroCAM is now an emerging field of research across western Canada with 50+ groundbreaking neuroCAM research projects underway. In the next year, we will co-host the first ever global summit focused on “Brain Aging” and by 2020 we are aiming to open the doors to a collaborative, interdisciplinary facility where the fields of neuroCAM research, science, tech, and business can serendipidously collide to help find innovative and alternative solutions for neurological disorders.
I know that 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 and I don’t believe that will be my future. Instead, I envision a future of a world free from neurological disorders.
Crystal Phillips, Executive Director, Co-Founder