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Ralph Cochrane, far right, has organized four fundraising expeditions, including this one along Peru’s Machu Picchu trail.

BRIAN WONG/The Globe and Mail

The Donor: Ralph Cochrane

The Gift: Raising $1-million and climbing

The Cause: Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

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When Ralph Cochrane returned home to Toronto in 2006 after taking a year off to travel, he decided to combine his passion for adventure with a long-felt need to do something to help people with multiple sclerosis.

Mr. Cochrane's mother, Gwen, has had MS almost her entire life but still managed to raise three children. It wasn't easy and Mr. Cochrane felt frustrated as a teenager by the lack of support and resources for people with MS. The disease has "had a significant impact on our family," said Mr. Cochrane, 45, who works at Bank of Montreal as a business leadership coach.

In 2008, Mr. Cochrane launched MS Climb, a series of four fundraising expeditions; along Peru's Machu Picchu trail, to the Everest base camp in Nepal, across the Great Wall of China and up Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Each participant raises up to $15,000 and spends about a year preparing for the trip.

Since the first trip to Tanzania five years ago, MS Climb has raised $1-million for the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada. It has now been rolled into the MS Society as part of its overall fundraising program, although Mr. Cochrane will remain involved.

"It has been amazing to raise the money because when you have someone who has lived most of their adult life with something as traumatic as this, you want to make a difference," he said, adding that his mother, who is 72, is struggling.

"This was a great vehicle for me to say I'm going to raise a million dollars and help make a difference for the next round of young mothers who get diagnosed with MS."

pwaldie@globeandmail.com

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