(Submitted by Laurie McLean - image credit)
For Laurie McLean, the MS Read-a-thon is very personal.
The mother of two was diagnosed with the condition, which affects the central nervous system, in the late 90s.
"It was devastating," she told CBC.
At the time, as she was dealing with some vision loss and partial paralysis, her 10-year-old son, Chris, stumbled across the MS Read-a-thon through one of his favourite TV shows.
It's a month-long campaign during February that encourages youth to read as many books as they can while fundraising for the MS Society of Canada.
For McLean's family, a new tradition was born.
"He loved reading, so it was a perfect fit for him … he would actually read to me because my vision was gone," McLean said, noting she did not completely lose her vision, but enough that she could not read at the time.
That was more than 20 years ago. While McLean now considers herself blessed and manages her symptoms with the occasional flare-up, she still encourages families to take part.
Awareness and new therapies brought to the North
McLean started the MS Society of Canada, Yellowknife chapter in 2012, and has seen the difference the fundraising dollars can make first hand.
"Money goes toward research and groundbreaking therapies," she said.
In the past two decades, she has been able to help individuals by bringing in walkers, securing lockers, air conditioners and even getting infusions offered in Yellowknife, so people with MS don't have to travel to Edmonton for treatment.
"I'm basically the MS office here in Yellowknife and so I've helped get fundraising dollars out and try to bring education sessions to the North and the awareness to the North," she said.
Starting the chapter in 2012 by herself, McLean said
A gazillion books read
While the fundraiser has been going strong since 1977, organizers had to be innovative this year as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
In line with fundraisers across the country, the campaign moved online while still making in-person impacts for individuals and families.
This year, McLean enlisted the help of her 10-year-old niece, who signed up online, talked to her teacher and convinced the class to sign up as well.
After a year of being shut-in, McLean said the digital option is nice.
"It brings the two worlds together," she said.
The MS Society of Canada Read-a-Thon runs until Feb. 28.