Our Story

Accelerating bold solutions in neuroscience research

Branch Out’s story begins with a young girl who had an Olympic-sized dream.

Crystal Phillips grew up figure skating in rural Alberta. At 16, she was introduced to speed skating and fell in love with the sport. She quickly became a fierce competitor and soon moved to Calgary to begin training with the Canadian national team.

But Crystal’s world was upended when she woke up one morning numb, with no feeling from her chest to her toes. At the age of 19, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a potentially disabling disease that affects the brain’s communication with the rest of the 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.

That course of action did not sit well Crystal. So, she made the bold decision to end her drug treatments immediately. Over the past few years, she had come to appreciate the human body’s resiliency and ability to heal itself.

Crystal’s experience led her to the realization that there were 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.

To help fill those gaps, Crystal, 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 plus Complementary and Alternative Modality). This new field would work within the current medical system, and help ensure that there’s research in all areas of neuroscience.

Since 2010, Branch Out has raised over three million dollars and awarded almost 150 grants to researchers across Canada 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.

We hope that neuroCAM research will help make the future a little brighter for the millions of Canadians living with neurological disorders.

A Timeline of Branch Out

2010

Founded

2010
2010

First Bike Tour fundraiser

2010
2012

First undergraduate grants awarded in Alberta

2012
2014

New grant offerings for graduate students

2014
2015

First $1 million raised

2015
2015

Expanded to Saskatchewan

2015
2017

Expanded to B.C.

2017
2017

New grant offerings for principal investigators

2017
2018

First Your Brain on Art fundraiser

2018
2019

Expanded to UofT

2019
2019

Sponsored a new TMS clinic with Dr. Frank MacMaster

2019
2021

Launch of the Impact grants

2021
2022

After a two year absence, Bike Tour returned for the 10th edition

2022

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