Canadian soccer captain Christine Sinclair continues to lead fight against MS

Burgers to Beat MS has raised more than $11 million since its inception in 2009

Christine Sinclair continues to have an impact on and off the soccer field.

Canada’s all-time leading scorer, with 173 international goals, and A&W Canada hope to surpass $2 million in the restaurant chain’s 10th annual Burgers to Beat MS campaign.

Burgers to Beat MS has raised more than $11 million since its inception in 2009, making it the single-largest annual corporate fundraiser for the MS Society of Canada. Sinclair, whose mother Sandi has MS, became the face of the campaign last year when it delivered a record $1.85-million haul.

“It’s been incredible to be part of it — to travel across Canada and spread the word and meet people,” Sinclair said in an interview Wednesday at a Toronto A&W.

“It’s opened my eyes to a lot of things,” added the 35-year-old from Burnaby, B.C. “Growing up, it was just my mum and that was all I knew really about MS. It’s been incredible to meet a bunch of Canadians and hear their stories and try to have an impact on their lives.”

Sadly there are many MS stories.

The MS Society of Canada says Canada has one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis in the world, with 11 Canadians diagnosed every day. The disease is most commonly diagnosed in people between 15 and 40, with women three times more likely than men to be affected.

The disease, described as complex and unpredictable, affects the central nervous system. Commons symptoms include: fatigue, impaired sensation, vision problems, lack of co-ordination and cognitive impairment.

The cause of MS remains a mystery and there is no cure.

But Pamela Valentine, president and CEO of the MS Society of Canada, says the future looks promising.

“There is real hope and promise,” she said. “And we’ve gone a long way.”

Over the 10-year partnership with A&W, Valentine says available medications have gone from three types to 14.

“We’re making huge steps. I have great hope that a cure is on the horizon. But importantly while we’re searching for that cure, we’re doing a lot in terms of looking at the ways in which we can help people living with MS live a better life today.”

Sinclair says her mother, who lives in a care home in suburban Vancouver, is doing all right. “She’s hanging in there.”

A&W Canada has some 925 outlets and president and CEO Susan Senecal says the Burgers to Beat MS campaign has become personal for her company.

“I think MS is a bit of a silent disease, where a lot of people don’t know and haven’t heard of it,” she said. “But once you start to get involved with the cause and talk about, it you discover that some of your family, your acquaintances, almost everyone has that experience that they actually have someone within their circle that has been touched (by the disease).”

Both Valentine and Senecal say Sinclair is making a real difference, from promoting awareness to raising funds.

“Her personal story is a very very touching one … She’s a private person but so many people know of her,” said Senecal. “And this was a side of her story that no one knew about, I think, until she really became involved with us and with (the MS Society),” said Senecal.

The A&W campaign wraps up Thursday, when $2 from every Teen Burger sold across Canada going towards fighting MS.

On the soccer field, Sinclair is having a banner season. She has six goals and a league-high seven assists with Portland (9-6-5) in the NWSL. The third-place Thorns look to work their way through the playoffs and defend their league title on home turf, with the championship game already set for Portland on Nov. 22.

She will don Canada colours for a Nov. 2 friendly against Brazil in Ottawa and captain the Canadian women in October at the CONCACAF Women’s Championship, which doubles as a World Cup qualifier.

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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