Denny Morrison participating in upcoming MS Bike Tour: “Let’s make a cure for MS our big goal!”

By Jolanda Abbes

On June 12-13 several Canadian speed skaters will once again participate in the MS Bike Tour, a two-day 180-km trip from Airdrie to Olds and back, to help build more awareness of Multiple Sclerosis and to raise as much money as possible for MS research. They will do so as members of Team Tazza, and among them will be Denny Morrison, Olympic gold-medalist at the Vancouver Games last February. Morrison got involved in the Bike Tour when his good friend and fellow-speed skater Crystal Phillips was diagnosed with MS a few years ago and organized her first MS Bike Tour team in 2006. After solely focusing on his speed skating for such a long time because of the Olympics, Morrison now feels it’s time to give something back by urging people to donate to this cause.

Despite some setbacks during the past season and some highs and lows at the Olympic Games in February, Denny Morrison did manage to take home an Olympic gold medal from those same Games in its very last speed skating event: the Team Pursuit. Together with teammates Lucas Makowsky and Mathieu Giroux, Morrison beat Team USA by 0.21 seconds in an exciting final. Now that the Olympic season is over, Morrison has been enjoying a well-deserved break from speed skating and succeeded in finding other ways to spend his time, including a planned return to the MS Bike Tour on June 12-13.

Morrison got involved in the Bike Tour for the first time back in 2006, when his longtime friend Crystal Phillips was diagnosed with MS, and only a few months after this diagnosis decided to start organizing a team for the Tour to help raise money for MS research. Morrison reflects: “I've known Crystal through speed skating since we were about 8 years old. She's always been a fast speed skater and we often shared podiums as the male and female winners of our age class at competitions growing up. I was out of town when I first heard Crystal was diagnosed with MS and called her to support her in any way that I could. Crystal's attitude right from the start was positive and hopeful, and when she started rallying the troops to form a team to raise money for MS research by riding in the MS Bike Tour, I was the first in line.” Consequently, he was part of Phillips’ team in the first two years of its existence.

Phillips looks back on some life-changing years. After she had her first ‘attack’ in June 2005, at the young age of 19, she was officially diagnosed with MS in February 2006. MS is a disease of the central nervous system that affects vision, hearing, memory, balance and mobility. After 2006, Phillips slowly seemed to overcome MS but lately she has been troubled by some health issues again. However, change in her situation may be just around the corner, with a very important new breakthrough discovery in MS called CCSVI, discovered by Dr. Paolo Zamboni, a former vascular surgeon and professor at the University of Ferrara in northern Italy. All of Team Tazza's funds raised this year will be directed towards further research into this discovery. Phillips: “So far the Liberation Treatment has shown incredibly positive results around the world. However, much more studies need to be carried out, and this is why funding is needed more than ever.”

For his first year on the Tour, Morrison set himself a goal of raising $1,000, and for his second year he raised the bar to $1,200, and both goals were easily met. Now, after having missed the 2008 and 2009 Tours “while selfishly preparing for the 2010 Olympics”, as he puts it on his personal fundraising page, Morrison feels it’s time to make up for his missed Tours, and has raised the bar yet again, to $3,000. “An Olympic gold medal is something which I am very proud of, but something which I would have never achieved without the support and sacrifices of so many people around me. I feel it is now my responsibility to give something back. To share my Olympic medal, my Olympic story, and my Olympic experiences with as many people around me as possible. If I can inspire someone to dream big and believe in the goals that they've set, I know they will achieve them. Let’s make a cure for MS our big goal! Just as with my Olympic medal, a cure for MS would be impossibly hard to achieve without the support of many people. Donating is the EASY way to help out! I'm putting in an extra effort this year to make up for my missed Tours and I hope you will show extra support too! And if you donate over $100, I'll let you touch the Olympic gold medal! However, if you really want to have an impact, join the Tour! You will be doing something healthy for yourself while at the same time supporting a really great cause.”

To date, Team Tazza has already raised around a quarter of a million dollars, and since 90% of the money for researching MS comes from pledges and donations in events such as the MS Bike Tour, it is important that people continue to donate to events like this. And now more than ever, funding is needed to help speed up research into CCSVI and the Liberation Treatment. And who knows… Make a significant enough donation to research that is so close to discovering a cure for MS, and you may end up holding an actual Olympic gold medal along the way!

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Interested in helping Denny Morrison reach his goal of raising $3,000? Click here for his personal fundraising page.

To keep informed on new research going on in MS and events put on by Team Tazza, click here.

For more information on the Liberation Treatment, click here.