Elite speed skater: Crystal Phillips

How one athlete is raising awareness for multiple sclerosis

Calgary, Alberta // Age: 25

In spring 2005, while training with the national middle-distance speed-skating team, Crystal Phillips lost feeling from her chest to her toes. It was her first attack of multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease that destroys myelin, a fatty sheath that protects the nerves of the central nervous system. MS is debilitating, variable and affects about one in every 400 Canadians.

Phillips had participated in MS fundraising bike rides before, but the 2006 Calgary MS ride was personal. “It may sound cheesy, but I saw a T-shirt that said, ‘The love you give is the love you feel,’” she says. “Helping people is a rewarding experience, and it lets me know that I’m on the right track.” She organized speed-skating comrades and other supporters into the second-largest team in North America that year, collectively raising $56,000. Since then, Phillips and her friends have brought in more than $250,000 for MS science.

Still an elite speed skater, Phillips’s latest project is the Branch Out foundation, which she founded to support research into natural and holistic therapies for MS and other neurological disorders. The foundation held an inaugural 100-kilometre bike ride this year in the Rockies, raising nearly $40,000.

Branch Out Foundation

This profile is part of our Top 30 under 30 feature.