Photo of Justine Lakeit and her two sons

A Fruitful Partnership

Every partnership has a story. For some, it starts with a vested interest in helping communities in need of support. For others, it’s a philanthropic endeavour to practice corporate social responsibility and drive change. For Justine Lakeit from Caroline Cellars Winery, it’s personal.

Justine was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) in July 2019. Before her diagnosis, she experienced tingling, numbness, dizziness, extreme fatigue, and coordination problems. MS was suggested as a possible cause for her symptoms, but it wasn’t until later that she was officially diagnosed. 

“There were many possible causes for my symptoms, ranging from minor, reversible causes like a viral infection to more serious causes like multiple sclerosis. I was sure I would be diagnosed with something minor and curable. When the diagnosis for MS was clear, it was shocking. I wasn’t mentally prepared for it. It was also a rapid time-lapse from the onset of symptoms to diagnosis – early June to mid-July – which wasn’t a lot of time to process that I could have a disease that would affect me for life.”

Her diagnosis was a shock. Still, the confusion throughout those first moments subsided quickly because of excellent team care at the Hamilton Health Sciences MS Clinic. 

“They were kind and explained everything well. They were also informative about my options and available treatments. They helped take the fear out of my early experiences with MS.”

Despite Justine’s resilience, it’s been challenging adjusting to her symptoms. “Some days, I feel okay. But on other days, MS knocks me off my feet. While I typically feel comfortable discussing my diagnosis, I sometimes want to hide so that no one can see it.” 

By starting a disease-modified therapy (DMT) in October 2020 and adopting healthy lifestyle choices, like yoga and long walks, Justine is working to combat her symptoms. But she didn’t want to stop there. About six months after her initial diagnosis, she contacted the MS Society of Canada from Lakeit Farms, a 50-acre vineyard at Niagara-on-the-Lake, with hopes to begin a fruitful partnership.

“I wanted to get involved with the MS community to raise awareness and funds that will contribute to research – research that will cure this debilitating disease. Everything came together quickly, and we are so proud to begin this journey.”

An agreement was arranged. Justine rapidly decided that proceeds from the sale of each bottle of the 2019 Skin Fermented Vidal will go directly to supporting MS research. 

Imprinting the MS Society logo on her family wine label was a nerve-wracking decision for Justine because she was unsure how much support she would receive from the community. Nevertheless, she knew that she could help tens of thousands of other Canadians living with the same disease by continuing the conversation.

“By releasing our wine, I am opening myself to speaking about my diagnosis, and hopefully benefitting a cause that I care about deeply. I hope that the awareness we’re raising gives people the same hope I get from reading stories from the MS community.” Justine adds, “Finding a cure for the disease would mean that I wouldn’t have to worry about being there for my children, and I can face my future with more certainty.”

Family is everything for Justine. In 1978, Justine’s father and mother purchased the 50-acre vineyard with some help from her grandmother, Caroline. At the time, Justine’s parents, who were in their mid-twenties, had grown up in a local vineyard, developing a strong passion for wine and a vision for a future. More than 20 years later, their idea came to fruition with the opening of Caroline Cellars Winery, proudly named after the woman who helped start it all.

Not only is a bottle of 2019 Skin Fermented Vidal a refreshing blend of honeyed peach, mandarin orange, and notes of ruby red grapefruit, but it’s also an expression of love and dedication to family. This family now pride themselves on being members of the MS community. 

Partnerships at the MS Society of Canada strive to better Canadians’ lives with multiple sclerosis (MS). That’s why we are so proud to call Caroline Cellars Winery, an official partner. Learn more about Caroline Cellars and their 2019 Skin Fermented Vidal here:

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