On Thursday, August 20, The MS Society of Canada are asking Canadians to take part in the first-ever Take Out Burgers to Beat MS Day with A&W! We spoke to Pamela Valentine, President and CEO of The MS Society of Canada to learn more about how we can help them beat MS!
Describe your charity/non-profit in a few sentences
Canada has one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis in the world. On average, 11 Canadians are diagnosed every day. MS is a chronic autoimmune disease of the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord). It is considered an episodic disease meaning that the severity and duration of illness and disability can vary and are often followed by periods of wellness. Most people are diagnosed with MS between the ages of 20 and 49 and the unpredictable effects of the disease will last for the rest of their lives. The MS Society of Canada provides information, support and advocacy to people affected by MS, and funds research to find the cause and cure for the disease, bringing us closer to a world free of MS.
What problem does it aim to solve?
Our mission is to connect and empower the MS community to create positive change. The person living with MS is at the heart of everything we do. We work to ensure better supports and treatments are available to people affected by MS and that Canadians living with MS, and their families, can participate fully in all aspects of life.
When did you start/join it?
I joined the MS Society of Canada as president and CEO in 2018.
What made you want to get involved?
I am very much drawn to community led organizations. The drive and passion of the MS community and the team of volunteers and staff at the MS Society are what led me here. The momentum that has been achieved in better understanding the disease and finding more effective treatments in the last two decades has been remarkable. In joining the organization, I hope to continue to see progress in MS research and the delivery of programs in order to significantly improve health outcomes for the person living with MS. As a trained neuroscientist, this role has also led me back to those roots.
What was the situation like when you started?
The MS Society has a long history in being a very strong health charity in Canada. Since our founding in 1948, the core support of the MS Society has been from tens of thousands of dedicated individuals, companies and foundations in communities across Canada – there is a strong grass roots connection of communities helping communities.
How has it changed since?
COVID-19 has changed everything. The global pandemic has had a significant impact on the health charity sector, so much so that it’s forced us to change the way we do business. It means we must look at innovative ways to deliver on our mission – from programs and services to fundraising to our advocacy work – we have had to re-evaluate the way we serve our community at a time when we are needed the most. For those living with MS, COVID-19 is another uncertainty on top of an already complicated disease. Canadians affected by MS face challenges including barriers in accessing appropriate care supports and financial difficulties. COVID-19 only intensifies these circumstances and adds stress to both physical and mental health. The need for information, resources and support programs for people affected by MS is as urgent and critical as ever. It is important that we continue to build awareness for MS and provide the support people affected by MS need right now to ensure that ground-breaking MS research being done to secure a world free of MS continues into the future.
What more needs to be done?
More research! We’re on the cusp of incredible breakthroughs when it comes to MS research. We’ve seen such great progress in MS research over the past two decades, including advancements from just three treatments for MS to 15. Today, with better diagnostic criteria and MRI technologies we can diagnose MS earlier. Earlier diagnosis means earlier access to treatment, which has the potential to slow the damage MS causes and maximize brain health. Continuing to drive momentum from a research perspective is fundamental. We need to make sure we’re there for every Canadian affected by MS and that every Canadian has access to the supports they need.
How can our readers help?
Donate – give what you can during these unprecedented times. We are grateful to Canadians who have really shown up for us during this time and continue to give. Raising funds and building awareness for MS is critical for us to continue to serve people living with MS now and into the future.
Do you have any events coming up?
On Thursday, August 20, we are asking Canadians to take part in the first-ever Take Out Burgers to Beat MS Day. A&W’s annual Burgers to Beat MS campaign unites Canadians from coast-to-coast to support the MS Society of Canada. Over the past 12 years, this campaign has raised more than $15 million and is the single largest annual corporate fundraiser for the MS Society. On Burgers to Beat MS Day, A&W will donate $2 from every Teen Burger® sold via A&W mobile ordering, drive-thru, take out and dine-in across Canada to the MS Society of Canada.
With generous donations from A&W’s operators, staff and guests, we aim to raise more than $1 million in support of Canadians living with MS and fund research that is fundamental in changing lives.
This Fall we also have an MS Run taking place September 12 and Savour: A Culinary Festival happening in early October.
Where can we follow you?
LinkedIn: Pamela Valentine
PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity in Toronto that you love?
Canadian health charities across Canada need your help now. Health charities on average have been impacted by at least a 50% drop in revenue, as a result of fundraising efforts on hold due to COVID-19, the cyclical nature of fundraising and the economic downturn.
Each year, our organizations support over 2.9 million Canadians living with chronic diseases and conditions, along with thousands of caregivers. Collectively, we invest over $155 million annually into health research in Canada, funding new interventions and sustaining Canada’s scientific capacity.
Now more than ever it’s important to raise awareness that #healthcharitieshelp!