View Remember * Celebrate Jimmie Heuga’s Can Do Spirit Video
Jimmie’s Can Do Spirit Lives in Everyone
On Monday, February 8, 2010 our founder Jimmie Heuga passed away peacefully. Can Do MS’s board and staff are deeply saddened. Our condolences go to his family and friends. He continues to be an inspiration to all.
Jimmie’s Courage – An example to all
We are reminded of Jimmie’s courage to take a stand for people living with MS. He believed people are more than their MS. His example taught us that by focusing on what we can do and making healthy lifestyle choices, we can live passionately and love life.
Thank you for believing in us, Jimmie.
Thank you for teaching us how to regain our power, believe in ourselves and listen to ourselves.
Thank you for your contagious enthusiasm for life, inspiring thousands of people to realize their true potential.
Thank you for your infectious smile and sense of humor, allowing people to let go of their fear and be who they want to be.
Thank you for your twinkle of hope that showed through your compassionate listening of others.
You are missed and loved. We promise to uphold your courageous and pioneering can do philosophy by empowering people with MS and their support partners to transform and improve the quality of their lives. We pledge our commitment to honoring your can do spirit and legacy that lives in everyone.
“FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN DO.” ~ Jimmie Heuga
Jimmie Heuga grew up near Lake Tahoe, California and started skiing at the age of two. He began competing when he was five years old, and at 15, he was the youngest man ever named to the U.S. Ski Team. In 1964 Jimmie stunned the international skiing community when he took the bronze medal in slalom at the Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. Billy Kidd finished second, just a heartbeat ahead of Jimmie and together they became the first American men to earn Olympic medals for Alpine skiing. In 1967, he finished third in point standings in the World Cup giant slalom and was the first American to win the prestigious Arlberg-Kandahar race in Garmisch, Germany. Jimmie began noticing symptoms of what would later be diagnosed with MS in the spring of 1967, experiencing vision problems and numbness in his extremities. After competing in the 1968 Olympics, he joined the professional racing circuit still hindered by mysterious symptoms. In 1970, he received an official diagnosis of MS. He was 26 and at the peak of his skiing career.
His Diagnosis and Can Do Way
When Jimmie was diagnosed with MS, doctors advised him to avoid physical activity because it was thought that exercise would exacerbate his symptoms. Jimmie founded The Jimmie Heuga Center for Multiple Sclerosis, now Can Do MS, in 1984 to challenge the conventional medical advice of the time, and share his program of physical activity, goal-setting and psychological motivation that improved his physical condition and outlook on life and MS. Jimmie spent years sharing and teaching the principles that transformed his life from one of uncertainty, to one of an active pursuit of personal health and well-being.
Today the whole person philosophy and approach that Jimmie pioneered in 1984 is acknowledged within the MS community as a standard of MS care.
How Jimmie started The Jimmie Heuga Center for Multiple Sclerosis (now Can Do Multiple Sclerosis)
The Snow Express for MS — the prelude to the Vertical Express for MS — began in 1985, when skiing Olympian Jimmie Heuga and ten others set a world record, skiing one million vertical feet during 24 hours in Alyeska, Alaska. This event raised the seed money to start The Jimmie Heuga Center for Multiple Sclerosis (now Can Do Multiple Sclerosis). The organization’s roots run deep in the skiing world. When Jimmie was diagnosed with MS, it was a blow to the tight-knit racing community. Later, when he established The Jimmie Heuga Center the skiing world stepped up to the financial challenge. In May, 1985, friends and associates organized the first Snow Express for MS, a massive fundraiser in Alyeska, Alaska. The ski marathon raised $250,000 in seed money to start the organization.
Over the years, Snow Express (now known as Vertical Express for MS) broadened to include racers of all ages and abilities. It grew to be one of the premier on-snow fundraising events in North America. Thousands have participated in Snow Express races at 30 different ski areas, raising as much as $1 million per year for the nonprofit organization Jimmie founded.
Can Do MS’s CAN DO Program – The First Program
The first lifestyle empowerment program that The Jimmie Heuga Center for Multiple Sclerosis (now Can Do Multiple Sclerosis) provided in 1986 was based on Jimmie’s fitness and wellness program he started when he was first diagnosed with MS in the 1970s. The CAN DO Program name exemplifies Jimmie’s can do attitude and spirit. Over the years the CAN DO Program has helped thousands of people with MS and their support partners see beyond their MS by giving them the knowledge, skills, tools and confidence to adopt healthy lifestyle behaviors, actively co-manage their disease and live their best lives.
Jimmie’s Role in Can Do MS
Jimmie was appointed the first campaign fundraising and public education director for the Jimmie Heuga Center Edowment. In this outreach role, Jimmie raised awareness and raised contributions to support Can Do MS’s lifestyle empowerment programs. He traveled on behalf Can Do MS’s programs and fundraising events, speaking about how he overcomes his challenges of living with MS. Never letting himself be beaten by MS, Jimmie exercised regularly by swimming or bicycling on a custom-built, hand-pedaled tricycle and continued to ski at every available opportunity.
Jimmie often said, “I’m not sitting here languishing, waiting for a cure. I am dedicated to maintaining my overall health because it helps me live the best life possible.”
Some of Jimmie Heuga’s many achievements include:
James “Jimmie” Frederick Heuga
September 22, 1943 – February 8, 2010
• Born in 1943 in Lake Tahoe, CA, to Lucille and Pascal Heuga, a Basque immigrant who ran the cable car at Squaw Valley, CA.
• Jimmie began skiing at two and three years later, he was competing on the junior circuit.
• In 1958, at 15, he was named to the US Ski Team, coached by Bob Beattie. Jimmie remains the youngest man ever on its roster.
• In 1964 he won the Olympic bronze medal in the slalom in Innsbruck in 1964.
• He and Billy Kidd were the first American men to stand on an Olympic podium holding an alpine ski medal
• During the 1968 Olympics, he experienced early symptoms of MS.
• Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) at the age of 26 in 1970.
• Jimmie tapped the goal-setting skills he learned from coach Beattie and built a fitness and wellness program based on exercise and positive thinking. At the same time, the progress of the disease slowed significantly, suggesting that exercise, though no cure, had deterred the debilitating effects of MS.
Jimmie Heuga’s Awards
• 6th place at 1963 NCAA Champion in slalom
• 4th place in the combined at 1966 World Championships at Portillo, Chile
• First American to win the prestigious Arlberg-Kandahar race in Garmisch, Germany
• Appointed as the first campaign fundraising and public education director for the Jimmie Heuga Center Endowment in 2009