Accelerating bold solutions in neuroscience research
Branch Out’s story begins with a young girl and her Olympic-sized dream.
Crystal Phillips, from Beaumont Alberta, grew up as a competitive speed skater. She quickly accelerated in the sport and moved to Calgary to begin training with the Canadian national team.
However, Crystal’s life took an unexpected turn when she woke up one day with no feeling from her chest to her toes. At just 19 years old, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis – a disease that could potentially disable her and affect the communication between her brain and body.
Determined to not let her diagnosis get in the way of her dreams, Crystal began an intensive drug therapy program and took advantage of all the resources available to her: sports psychology, nutrition and herbal medicine, chiropractic, and massage therapy. By 2009, she was well enough to qualify for the trials for the Canadian speed skating team at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Unfortunately a major relapse upset her plans, and the news from her doctors was bleak: her disease was progressing. They recommended a more aggressive drug treatment plan with harsh side effects and no benefit to the long term progression of her disease.
That course of action did not sit well Crystal, and she felt it was the holistic therapies that got her back to an elite level in sport, despite being told she would never speed skate again. So, she made the bold decision to end her drug treatments and treat her disease with non-pharmaceutical therapies instead. Once again Crystal climbed her way back to an elite level in sport, and to this day is relapse free and thriving with optimal health.
Crystal’s experience highlighted gaps in the health system: a lack of high-quality research, awareness and credibility for the non-pharmaceutical or alternative approaches to healing the nervous system, not only for multiple sclerosis but all neurological diseases.
To help fill those gaps, Crystal and her co-founder Graham Daw, started the Branch Out Neurological Foundation in 2010 to ‘Branch Out’ and fund a new field of study, now termed neuroCAM (neuroscience plus Complementary and Alternative Modality).
Since 2010, Branch Out has raised over three million dollars and awarded 132 grants to Canadas top neuroscientists who are pushing the status quo in their pursuit of technological solutions and non-pharmaceutical approaches to treat and prevent all forms of neurological conditions.
Crystal Phillips’s pursuit has blossomed into a vibrant network and community beyond her wildest dreams. Through groundbreaking neuroCAM research, Branch Out is poised to bring hope and healing to the countless Canadians struggling with neurological disorders. Crystal’s vision has truly taken root, and its impact will be felt for generations to come.
A Timeline of Branch Out
First Bike Tour fundraiser
First undergraduate grants awarded in Alberta
New grant offerings for graduate students
First $1 million raised
Expanded to Saskatchewan
Expanded to B.C.
New grant offerings for principal investigators
First Your Brain on Art fundraiser
Unlike Minds Summit
Expanded to UofT
Sponsored a new TMS clinic with Dr. Frank MacMaster
$3 million raised for research
Launch of the Impact grants
After a two year absence, Bike Tour returned for the 10th edition
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