FOR BRANT NEWS
There is one basic desire that inspires the work of chiropractor, yoga teacher and healthy eating guru Dr. Courtney Gray.
"My goal is to get people back to health," she says.
Gray, 27, operates Gray Matter Chiropractic in Brantford. She also teaches yoga in the city at Sacred Lotus Yoga Studio and has recently started the Live Clean Challenge in partnership with Callie Farrell, her younger sister and the chiropractic assistant and nutrition advisor at Gray Matter.
The Live Clean Challenge helps people become more healthy through promoting regular exercise, a positive mental attitude and "clean" eating, meaning eating a diet free of added sugars, dairy and gluten.
But Gray doesn't only advocate for healthy living in her community. Since 2009, she has been working with ChiroMission, a small not-for-profit organization of chiropractors, chiropractic students and volunteers. She is currently the treasurer.
Two to three times a year, she takes her skills more than 1,700 miles away to the Caribbean, where she provides chiropractic adjustments for people who otherwise would never be exposed to chiropractic care. She’s been on eight trips so far.
"You're giving people adjustments which have the potential to alter their life," Gray says.
Simply stated, chiropractors help realign the spine. The spine is where nerves leave to other parts of the body.
"Anything that your body does, it needs the nerve impulse from the brain to tell it what to do," Gray says. "So if there's a misalignment in the spine where that nerve leaves, it could affect the quality of the signal going to the end organ."
That's where chiropractors come in.
"The purpose of an adjustment is to take stress off the spine and nervous system to allow the body to function as close to 100 per cent as it can," says Gray. "We explain that the body has the ability to heal within it, it's just that if there's something in the way blocking it you're not going to heal."
Dr. Todd Herold and Dr. JC Doornick founded ChiroMission in 2003. While vacationing in the Dominican Republic, Herold hurt his back and wanted to see a chiropractor, but quickly learned that there wasn't a single one on the island.
“He thought it wasn't right that people didn’t have access to chiropractic as a healing art," Gray says. "He started to bring small groups down and it grew from there."
The organization now conducts two missions a year to the Dominican Republic and a yearly mission to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Though ChiroMission is still a small organization with a core group of only about 10 people who keep it running, each mission now boasts between 20 and 100 volunteers.
Besides chiropractic care, ChiroMission brings with it donations of food, clothing, toys and school supplies. It has even used some of its funds to pay teachers salaries and build an orphanage, aptly named The House that Chiropractic Built.
Volunteers work tirelessly to raise funds and donations to take on missions, as well as pay their own way there. There is no corporate sponsorship.
"Each person that brings donations has the opportunity to hand them out on one of the days they are out doing the mission work, so they see the impact they are making directly on families in need," Gray says. "That usually fuels their fundraising efforts for their next trip, too."
But Gray has learned along the way that giving donations to village leaders to distribute accordingly is often best.
"When I handed out goods on my first trip it turned into a mob scene," she says. "It was very overwhelming to see how people react when they are struggling to survive."
ChiroMission has a powerful vision to work at promoting proactive, preventative health care in mission countries.
Through television and radio spots, public presentations and creating relationships with other organizations, it is slowly but surely making a dent.
Dr. Jason Gerard, the current president of the organization, says the ultimate goal of ChiroMission is to help mission countries be self-sufficient.
"Ultimately, we are planting seeds down there," he says. "As young people get care and get excited they say 'I would like to do this for my family, my community.'"
Gerard is aware of one chiropractic clinic that has opened in the Dominican Republic since ChiroMission started.
At its heart, ChiroMission is about working to improve the lives of everyone in its reach. Doctors work tirelessly, seeing 1,000 to 2,000 patients on average in a three-day span, but they are constantly inspired by their successes.
"On my first trip there was a little boy watching," Gray says. "He kept watching for a good hour and then disappeared and came back wearing a nicer shirt. He walked up to us and he was pointing at his arm. It turns out he had dislocated one of the bones in his arm. This was one of the poorest villages in the Dominican with all Haitian refugees and they don't have access to medical care. They can't go see a doctor, there's no money. So we were able to relocate the bone into place."
Without proper care, the boy could have lost function in his arm, Gray says.
Gray's passion for ChiroMission is evident.
"I really love serving the people and having the time to reconnect to the 'why' of chiropractic," she says. "I love that I can go down there and get repurposed and re-energized for what I do and I bring that energy back with me to my practice."
Gray will be traveling to St. Vincent and the Grenadines with ChiroMission in March.