Saanich’s Susan Brice was recently presented with the Exceptional Advocacy Award (individual) from the ALS Society of B.C. (Steph Schumann photo)

Saanich’s Susan Brice was recently presented with the Exceptional Advocacy Award (individual) from the ALS Society of B.C. (Steph Schumann photo)

Saanich councillor a champion for ALS

Susan Brice recognized for her advocacy of people living with ALS

After spending the better part of two decades in public life, Susan Brice has made more than her share of political connections.

Brice’s determination to use those connections to provide help for those suffering a debilitating condition has now brought her provincial accolades. The Saanich councillor recently received the Exceptional Advocacy Award (individual) from the ALS Society of B.C.

“I guess having been an MLA, I know a lot of these people personally and I know how the system works, so I can help pull people together. I guess that’s the role that I’ve been playing – connect the decision-makers with our issue,” said Brice, the vice-president of the ALS Society of B.C. Victoria Chapter.

Brice, who served as an MLA from 2001 to 2005 before shifting her focus to the Saanich council table, helps co-ordinate ALS B.C. Legislature Day as well as scheduling meetings between ALS advocates and the different party caucuses.

“If you need any doors open at the Legislature, Susan Brice is the person to speak with,” said Wendy Toyer, executive director of the ALS Society of B.C. “When at the Legislature, not only is she well known and respected by MLAs of all persuasions, she knows and is respected by the staff that work there. It is because of her support the ALS Society of B.C. has recently been approved for a grant to improve the quality of life of family caregivers of people living with ALS.”

Brice has spent the past three years trying to connect each of the MLAs in the Legislature with the story of ALS, making individual contact to ensure the message gets through.

And Brice speaks from experience, knowing first-hand the agony that ALS can bring. Her husband George died from the disease in 2009.

“You realize it just comes from nowhere. There’s no preparation and all of a sudden a family is confronting it,” said Brice, who was touched by the support she received from the ALS Society. “You need breathing machines, feeding machines, beds, everything. Just as an individual, you’re overwhelmed but they’re so supportive.”

Brice said speaking with MLAs, she will often hear personal stories of their connections with ALS.

“Even though it’s an uncommon disease it does touch a lot of British Columbians,” she said.

The award was presented to recognize an initiative that changes public policy to the benefit of people affected by ALS. And Brice hopes that her message comes through loud and clear.

“A big message that we always send is research, research, research. Our ultimate goal is to find the key to preventing or curing ALS.”

The Victoria Flower Day Committee and its co-ordinator, Diane Nadeau, received the Exceptional Public Awareness Program Award (group) from the ALS Society of B.C. The award evaluates and recognizes exceptional programs that aim to educate and increase public awareness of ALS.

“We are lucky to have this fundraiser take place each year, and it’s all because of the many volunteers who decide that they want to give back,” says Nadeau. “Families and individuals who return yearly show up because they have been affected by ALS, or simply because they want to take part in the community’s support. Even through this one thing, they are able to make a difference.”