Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

May 01, 2009 09:00 ET

Reflections on MS Awareness Month

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - May 1, 2009) - Since the mid-1970s, the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada has observed May as MS Awareness Month. This year, May will be filled with statements about MS in the House of Commons and provincial legislatures. Mayors and city councils will get involved by proclaiming May as MS Awareness Month.

But why is May MS Awareness Month? The answer goes back to 1975 when Gloria Malcolm, a member of the MS Society national board of directors, was asked to examine whether a small campaign in Laval, Quebec involving the selling of carnations might make a good national fundraiser.

Based on the success of the first small event and the natural tie-in to Mother's Day, her answer was an emphatic "yes." In 1976, the MS Society held its first national MS Carnation Campaign and MS Awareness Week, which then grew to encompass the entire month.

When asked about the significance of May, MS Society volunteer, Mike Augustine said: "I look forward every May to MS Awareness Month. The symbolic rebirth of spring is appropriately reflected in the attitudes of people living with multiple sclerosis. We can start to see the end of the hard times, as we look forward to the promise of new freedoms and opportunities. We've left the cold and dark and snow behind. It is a signal that things are going to be good."

But why have an awareness month? MS Society volunteers and staff, people living with MS, health practitioners, researchers and caregivers of those living with MS strive all year to achieve the mission of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada.

Support groups meet regularly across Canada in rural and urban communities while fundraising events and activities take place year round. Government relations and advocacy leaders work doggedly to keep politicians abreast of issues while client services staff provide assistance to those who need it.

Volunteers contribute every month of the year: they develop and mail publications, organize and attend education events and raise funds to support research, equipment, and services. Many of these activities garner attention from the public and media. The month of May is an opportunity to focus this energy to support the objective of increasing overall awareness of MS in Canada.

In Augustine's opinion, an awareness month gives people who may have heard of MS the permission to delve a little deeper and to ask questions without feeling embarrassed. "I love that a whole month is dedicated to allowing people to ask questions they might be uncomfortable asking. By overcoming the obstacles of fear or hesitancy, people will better understand why it's so vital that we work together to end MS," he explains.

MS Awareness Month activities take place in communities large and small, from coast-to-coast. All have similar objectives to raise awareness of: the disease and what it is like to live with an unpredictable, chronic condition; the growing prevalence of MS in women and children; and the cost of MS to the individual and to the Canadian economy.

Another major objective is to let people know - especially those affected by MS - about services and research funded by the MS Society of Canada.

"When someone is newly diagnosed, he or she may not know about the MS Society's world-class research program or the services we provide. We can provide information that offers hope during that scary and confusing time right after being told 'you have MS.' There are options, there are treatments, and the MS Society is here to help," says Aprile Royal, assistant vice-president, clinical programs, for the MS Society of Canada.

The following is a sample of MS Awareness Month activities for 2009:

- Fundraising events like the MS Carnation Campaign and MS Walk will be taking place in various cities throughout Canada.

- On May 6, MS Society volunteers will present carnations to MPs as they enter the House of Commons and advocacy meetings with MPs will be held on May 7.

- On May 9, Mr. Lube will be donating $5 from every oil change to the MS Society.

- From May 1-17, hardware retailer RONA will be running a special campaign asking customers for donations to the MS Society during check out.

- An MS research teleconference will take place on May 20 giving participants the opportunity to ask an MS researcher questions about any aspect of MS.

- Downloadable MS awareness posters are available at

To become involved locally, contact your local MS Society chapter or division. Call 1-800-268-7582 or go to

Contact Information

  • Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada
    Stewart Wong
    National Senior Manager, Media and Public Relations