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Contact: Scott Robinson, Marketing Coordinator
800-367-3101 ext. 1277 / 970-926-1277 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Alex Ng has always had a passion for changing lives. As a PhD student, one of his goals was to do the best work he could on topics that motivated and inspired him. It wasn’t until his postdoctoral research on muscle function and fatigue with Jane Kent-Braun, his mentor at the time and Can Do MS Programs Consultant, that he began pursuing an interest in helping people with multiple sclerosis.
In 1994, Jane recruited Alex to become a member of the Can Do MS programs team by inviting him to observe our four-day CAN DO® Program. This opportunity led Alex to a 19-year career with Can Do MS, where he has presented dozens of presentations on Exercise & Fatigue for people living with MS and their support partners. This past year, his paper documenting positive change in participants’ experience after attending our CAN DO Program was accepted for publication in the Disability and Rehabilitation Journal.
“I was completely blown away with how effective the CAN DO Program was and how inspiring Jimmie’s (Heuga) story was,” said Alex. “It was my job to analyze the data and establish its statistical significance. This was something that was outside my typical research area and it admittedly pushed me out of my comfort zone. However, it was important that the work be completed because there are plenty of companies with fancy websites with claims about how well their programs work with no data or evidence to back up those claims.”
It’s a rewarding experience to be inside the walls of a CAN DO Program and see how it affects everyone involved, not just the participants. Alex has witnessed many people overcome their fears or inexperience at our program over the years. These experiences have invigorated him.
“I knew how amazing the CAN DO Program was, and I wanted to know if there was statistical evidence to support our claims so we could help more people living with MS.”
Alex isn’t always focused on graphs and numbers. When asked to identify his favorite thing about the CAN DO Program, Alex had a heartfelt answer.
“I love meeting and interacting with everyone at the programs. Each year I participate it renews my motivation and drive that the research I’m conducting may be truly helping people live better with MS.”
Alex even finds that all of our programs are a source of inspiration for his research. He is currently working on validating the Physical Exertion Scale we teach
our participants at our program to ensure that it’s the best way for people to manage the amount of energy they are using to exercise. Our programs aren’t the only thing that inspires Alex to continue his research. Our founder, Jimmie Heuga, is another source of his motivation.
“I attribute the entire field of exercise and rehabilitation in MS to Jimmie. It wasn’t until the mid 90’s that a study came out proving that what he had been teaching was in fact true.”
Alex is referring to the study on exercise and MS sponsored by the National MS Society and Can Do MS, which validated Jimmie’s philosophies. Because exercise and MS was such a hot topic, many of the people involved in the study were actually CAN DO Program alumni! This helped others in the MS care management field realize that the power of exercise does in fact enhance life with MS. Jimmie changed the way the MS field viewed and treated MS and that’s when the CAN DO Program was born.
Often in life we are told to follow our dreams and the people who inspire us. Sometimes that is easier said than done. Next time you find yourself debating your calling, remember Alex’s story as proof that you can fulfill your passions through your work, by focusing on what you can do.
Thank you Alex for all your support and knowledge you’ve given us for the past 19 years!
Alex Ng, PhD, FACSM, currently lives in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin and he is the Associate Professor in the Exercise Science Program at Marquette University. For more information about Alex’s CAN DO Program outcomes research, please visit our website at http://www.mscando.org/can-do-ms-research/.
Before attending our CAN DO® Program in 2008, Alice Plain was on the right path to living fully despite her recent diagnosis. She was the Head Pro at a local golf course, which is a very physically demanding profession. Alice, who started her golf career in 1996, was diagnosed with MS in 2006. After her diagnosis, Alice could have chosen to move on from her Head Pro position, but she didn’t. In fact, she did the opposite and found ways to increase her involvement with the Pro Golf Association (PGA). In 2012, she was the first woman to earn the Bill Strausbaugh Award for excellence, awarded by The Colorado PGA West Chapter for her work in mentoring young golf professionals.
Alice used the philosophies we teach to aid her in improving her own health along with mentoring other aspiring golf professionals, all while supporting local war veterans and children interested in learning to golf.
“After attending the CAN DO Program I learned a lot about the ways I could help myself.”
One of Alice’s biggest battles with MS is the numbness in her legs. After the program she realized that it was better for her to walk while playing a round of golf than to ride in a cart.
“I enjoy walking when I play golf, it gives me more time to socialize and relax with the people I’m playing with.”
That wasn’t the only thing Alice learned.
“The CAN DO Program helped me realize that I need to make the most of every day, whether I’m playing golf, working, biking or hiking.”
Alice has taken this philosophy and run with it. A few years ago she started mentoring young aspiring golf professionals. The goal of the program was to prepare them for a successful career in golf. Instead of giving them mundane tasks, Alice decided to give them as much responsibility as possible.
“I wanted the young professionals to take ownership of their chosen career and make the most of their time while I was mentoring them. Which is why I gave them more responsibility than usual, the more hands on they were the better. I looked at myself more as their coach than as their boss.”
Alice’s dedication to helping others never fades. Throughout the years she has spearheaded programs to bring local children out for action packed days of lessons and rounds of golf. Along with teaching children to golf Alice also works with the Vail Veterans Program to give veterans a chance to get out on the golf course.
“It’s amazing to see how playing golf can bring a smile to people’s faces and allow them to forget about their worries. This is a gift that golf has given me and I love passing that on to children and veterans.”
One of the best things about our jobs here at Can Do MS is getting to meet and stay in touch with our program participants. Some participants are so inspired by what we do, they choose to give back to others in their community. For many, battling MS seems like a full time job, however, after attending one of our programs they realize that MS is only one part of who they are. Some choose to focus on improving their own health, others choose to exceed expectations in the workplace and others choose to give back to their communities. Alice’s can do story embodies all three of these. On behalf of Can Do MS and all the children, veterans and young PGA professionals we thank you for being such an inspirational and dedicated mentor to our community here in the Vail Valley.
28 years ago our founder Jimmie Heuga and a group of his Olympic skiing buddies decided they were going to ski one million vertical feet in 24 hours to raise seed money to start Can Do Multiple Sclerosis. They called it the Jimmie Heuga Express. Each of them needed to ski a daunting 100,000 vertical feet, which is no easy task! Over the next 27 years the event has evolved to include skiers, snowboarders and telemarkers of all ages and abilities and is hosted at world class ski resorts around the US.
It’s now known as Vertical Express for Can Do MS and it still continues to be our signature fundraising event series. Why? Because everybody chooses to participate to help people living with MS. It takes a village of our supporters to plan Vertical Express, including sponsors, volunteers, participants and most importantly the local event directors.
For the past eight years Crystal Mountain Resort Vertical Express has been run by an amazing family of five, the Stewart’s. Dan, Terri and their three daughters got involved because the company Dan worked for decided to sign on as a sponsor back in 2001.
“I worked at a radio station and we were approached by the event director Christy Anna to become a sponsor, to me it was a no-brainer and we signed on immediately.”
After participating as a sponsor for four years their now great friend, Christy Anna approached Dan and Terri and asked if they wanted to take over as event directors.
Terri explains their decision to take on the role of event directors best.
“I had volunteered in the past and had heard speakers who were CAN DO® Program alumni and I really liked the mission and philosophy they learned at the program. Also for me personally, I prefer to volunteer in organizations that provide direct service rather than funding for research, so that also kept me interested. This was also something we could take on as a family and I knew that anything we did needed to include our kids as well so they could learn about the different challenges people face and the strengths people bring.”
After that there was no looking back. The Stewart’s took the event head on and raised over $500,000 for our lifestyle empowerment programs over the last eight years. When we asked Dan what comes to mind when he hears Vertical Express, his contagious ear to ear smile broke out and he exclaimed:
“It’s a lot of hard work but in return it’s a lot of fun! In the end it’s all about getting this amazing group of caring people together to honor one of Jimmie’s favorite things to do, go skiing; all while raising money for programs that change people’s lives.”
Terri’s response wasn’t much different.
“I look forward to seeing the teams and enjoying the camaraderie among teams and the little competitive side to everyone. We’ve had many great speakers over the years so hearing the different stories of people living with MS has been amazing and inspirational.”
At the end of the day the program participants are what this event has always been about. The Stewart’s have never forgotten this, which is why they made such amazing event directors. Skiing on the slopes with great friends and enjoying conversation over some Après drinks is just the icing on the cake for them. In the end everyone is there to spread the can do spirit and to help us reach more people living with MS along with their support partners.
It’s been an amazing eight years and we speak for everybody that has been involved with the organization (program participants, program consultants, office staff, volunteers and sponsors). Thank you Dan, Terri, Hannah, Meghan and Grace for your hard work and amazing energy! Together we’ve helped thousands of people discover they are more than their MS.
Learn more about Vertical Express and other upcoming events by clicking here.
Interested in becoming an event director at your local ski resort? Email Vicki Flynn, Director of Development at email@example.com or call 970-926-1275.
Every once in a while we are lucky enough to meet someone who takes the can do spirit to a whole new level. Last May Bob Hughes attended our four-day CAN DO Program in Vail, CO for the second time. His sense of humor and overwhelmingly positive attitude became contagious. Whether he was telling stories of his five-day backpacking adventures in the Sierra Mountains, or cracking jokes, he could bring a smile to a room full of people in an instant.
Bob was first diagnosed in 1988 when he was 32 years old and like most, he went on quest to learn everything he could about Multiple Sclerosis. He found out about our CAN DO Program in 1992 through a friend and decided to take a chance and travel to Vail to further his search for the best ways to manage his MS.
“I decided to take the bull by the horns and see how far he would throw me.”
As soon as Bob got to our CAN DO Program he knew he’d made the right choice.
“When I first met Jimmie (Heuga), I was still struggling mentally and physically with managing my MS. He opened my eyes when he said ‘WAKE UP Bob! There is still so much you can do!’ And ever since then I’ve never looked back.”
After returning home from the program Bob’s friends instantly noticed a new “glow” surrounding him.
“I know, I realized there is so much that I still can do.”
Shortly after the program Bob flew out to California to complete a five-day backpacking trek throughout the Sierra Nevada Mountains with a group of adventurous people who were also living with a disability.
“I’ve always enjoyed nature and being athletic so this seemed like a perfect fit, I enjoyed it so much I went out and completed the trek again a few years later.”
With so much that had changed in the MS care management field since 1992, Bob decided to attend our CAN DO Program again in 2012.
“I looked at it as an opportunity to refresh my can do spirit and an opportunity to meet new people and share my experiences and learn from theirs.”
Once again, the program didn’t disappoint and it couldn’t have come at a better time. This past December, Bob suffered a stroke. The recovery process is a long and hard one that is only made more difficult by his MS.
“Right after the stroke I had no movement of my left arm, I’ve been working hard and am now able to move it and pick things up. The can do spirit I gained from the program has played a huge role in my recovery process, I feel blessed to have been instilled with the can do spirit”
Bob is doing much better today. However, he is still working his way through the recovery process and takes it one day at a time.
It’s amazing to meet someone who has been through so much, but who still keeps a positive outlook on life and cares so much for those around him. We all have someone in our life like Bob who can light up a room by just walking in, so next time you see your “Bob” be sure to say thanks. We thank you Bob, for never giving up and spreading your can do spirit to everyone you meet!
For more information on our programs please click here.
First and foremost, Happy New Year! We hope you and your loved ones had a wonderful holiday season. This month we wanted to focus on how you can help us spread the word about our 2013 programs and events using the simple yet powerful tools of email and social media. This is an easy and effective way you can help us reach more people living with MS in 2013!
In 2013, empower yourself and help us reach more people living with MS! Our goal for 2013 is to offer 100% of our programs free of charge and increase our program participation; we need your help to reach this goal, whether you are a program participant, supporter or both. Share our E-newsletter with friends, comment on Facebook about a program of ours you recently attended, share our can do stories, post or tweet a picture of you reaching one of your can do goals and tag us, forward our fundraising event emails to friends and share the registration links to our monthly webinars! We’re all about empowerment at Can Do MS, so this year focus on what you can do to spread the word about our events and share the power our programs have given you!
Every month our E-newsletter goes out to thousands of our supporters, and you know it’s filled with information about our upcoming programs, events and currents news in the MS community. Did you know there is an option to forward that E-newsletter? Help us spread the news! Share our emails with friends, co-workers, family, etc by clicking the “forward email” link at the bottom of our E-newsletter. Did you know if each person forwarded our emails to just three people we’d instantly reach over 40,000 new people who might have a connection to MS?
You can also share our news on your Facebook or Twitter account. Social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc) allows individuals to share what’s new in their life with a network of friends. Research shows the average user has 120 friends. Imagine if every person who received our E-newsletter also shared it on their Facebook page, we’d have the potential to reach over 1.5 million people. That number doesn’t even factor whether any of your friends decided to share your post with their friends too. You can share our E-newsletter by clicking the social media icons at the top of the email.
If you already follow us on one of our social media accounts – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, or Pinterest we encourage you to share your experiences with us. Did you recently attend one of our programs and really enjoy it? Or maybe you participated, or will, in one of our fundraising events like our upcoming Vertical Express for Can Do MS? Let us know by posting your Can Do MS moments and tag us! In doing so, one of your friends might decide to learn more about us because they noticed their friend had a great experience. If you haven’t started following us yet, then make sure to click on the social media links above to connect with us. Our goal is to gain 1,000 new friends on both our Facebook & Twitter accounts in 2013. You can help us reach and surpass that goal with the click of a button.
Recently, Rachel celebrated her youngest daughter’s graduation from college with a degree in Community Health. It’s an accomplishment Rachel was thrilled to witness and a career focus that she was proud to have influenced. Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) when her youngest child was a teenager, Rachel’s illness has had a profound impact on her life and that of her family… not the least of which is a shared desire to help others faced with difficult health challenges like MS.
Today, Rachel will tell you that all things happen for a reason and that she and her family have turned what could have been a devastating disease into a very positive life experience. Of course, approaching Christmas 2001, Rachel had no idea of the difficult journey ahead. She and her husband had raised three beautiful children. She loved her job teaching preschool… so much so that she was attending graduate school for an advanced degree in early childhood education. She was active, driven, outspoken and happy.
At 45, life was truly idyllic, until the very unexpected happened.
“I remember I was playing with the neighbor’s dogs when I felt a twinge. My right side went numb,” Rachel began. “So, I went to a chiropractor and things went back to normal for about three years. Then it happened again… only this time it didn’t go away and in October of 2004 I was diagnosed with MS.”
At first, Rachel, lacking knowledge, assumed it was a death sentence. But her family’s encouragement and her own strength of will simply wouldn’t allow her to give in.
“We were in it together,” she explained
“I tried to continue to lead my life as I always had, but I found I was no longer able to play with the kids at the preschool… getting down on the carpet was just too much. As I began interviewing for jobs, people looked at me differently. Try as I might to believe otherwise, my life had changed dramatically, but more importantly, I had changed profoundly, allowing my dreams and ambitions to fall by the wayside.”
By 2012, Rachel realized she needed more. More information. More inspiration. More hope. She had attended a Can Do MS JUMPSTART® Program years earlier and turned to Can Do MS once again.
“The four-day CAN DO® Program taught me how to best take care of me, both physically and mentally. They gave me the tools to advocate for myself… to be my own voice. It was important because I realized that I had something that I needed to share, that others could benefit from my experience.”
This program was a defining moment
Today, Rachel still spends her “spare” time teaching, albeit her students are older and her message more mature. In between flights across the country where she advocates for the rights of the disabled, she travels the Western U.S. “speaking out and speaking up” to women’s groups. “Women see me and realize that if I can do this… they can do anything.”
With the giving season just around the corner we want to take a moment this month and give thanks to someone very important to our organization, our founder Jimmie Heuga. It’s been over two years since Jimmie passed however, his can do spirit is still alive in the hearts of everybody involved with Can Do MS, which includes our office staff, Programs Consultants, board members, program participants, fundraisers, sponsors and all our supporters.
“FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN DO.” -Jimmie Heuga
Jimmie Heuga grew up near Lake Tahoe, California and started skiing at the age of two. By 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 and Jimmie became the first American men to earn Olympic medals for Alpine skiing. 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. In 1970, he received an official diagnosis of MS. He was 26 and at the peak of his skiing career.
When Jimmie was diagnosed with MS, doctors advised him to avoid physical activity because exercise was believed to exacerbate his MS 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 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.”
Today the whole person philosophy and approach that Jimmie pioneered more than 27 years ago is acknowledged within the MS community as a standard of MS care.
In order to spread his philosophy he needed funding so he created The Snow Express for MS — the prelude to the Vertical Express for Can Do MS — in 1985, 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.
Over the years, Snow Express (now known as Vertical Express for Can Do 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 Vertical Express for Can Do MS races at 30 different ski areas, raising as much as $1 million per year for the nonprofit organization Jimmie founded.
“There’s more than a cure to your MS. What if we know the cause of MS? People with MS still need to maintain the quality of their lives. Each day is a new day. MS is a day-to-day issue. How do we take charge of our lives when so many challenges appear to be in the way? I wanted to start a program to address these issues.” -Jimmie Heuga (from 2009 interview)
The first lifestyle empowerment program that Heuga created in 1986 was based on his fitness and wellness approach. The CAN DO Program name exemplifies Jimmie’s can do attitude and spirit. Over the past 28 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.
We Thank You Jimmie
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.
What are you thankful for this November? Tell us on our Facebook page.
Our founder Jimmie Heuga was empowered to start his own organization in 1984. To do this he had to recruit a group of compassionate individuals with a medical, exercise and/or business background to help build Can Do MS into what it is today.
One of those compassionate individuals is Pat Kennedy, RN, CNP, MSCN. Pat has played an integral role in shaping the success of our programs over the past 24 years. This October at our 27th Annual Autumn Benefit, we are honored that she will be the 2012 Honoree and Can Do Award Recipient. This award celebrates the legacy of Jimmie Heuga by honoring an individual who demonstrates the can do spirit, making a significant contribution to improving the lives of those living with MS and their support partners.
Since 1987, Pat began working in MS care as a Nurse Practitioner at a MS Center in Denver. That same year she became a member of our Programs Staff. Over the years people frequently ask her why she chose to work in the MS field. Pat responds,
“I focus on the positives; there are so many things we can do for people living with MS.”
Over the years she became more involved with the planning and maturation of our flagship four-day CAN DO® Program. Initially designed as an exercise program, Pat joined others in helping to shape the program into our current whole person, whole health approach.
“Nurses are trained to analyze and interpret the whole patient. Because of this, I had a unique perspective to help create a CAN DO Program that focused on multiple aspects of the patient’s life.”
Pat has invested so much time to our organization over the years, so we had to ask her what it feels like looking back.
“I have watched how our programs have evolved and I am thrilled to see Can Do MS rise to its potential. It has really fulfilled me to see how many people we have reached over the years.”
Pat’s most recent accomplishment is the publishing of The Can Do Multiple Sclerosis Guide to Lifestyle Empowerment. As the editor, she worked with ten members of our programs staff to create a book that embodied the can do principles and philosophy.
“We wanted to create a book that expressed the ideas of Can Do MS. We don’t treat MS like your doctor does in a medical sense, we are educators.”
If you were to read reviews of this new book, you would find that many people agree with this. Even so much so that individuals with other chronic diseases or without an illness are finding the book to be very educational. They believe the information can help anyone.
Looking back, there were two main things that kept Pat involved in the organization, our founder Jimmie Heuga, and the opportunity to individually counsel program participants about how to live beyond their MS.
“Jimmie was an example of walkin’ the walk and talkin’ the talk. He would live his beliefs to the fullest; if he fell down he would get himself back up and find a new way to accomplish his goal.”
When you have a strong leader like Jimmie guiding your organization, he attracts amazing and talented individuals such as Pat who want to work in an environment with such inspiration and true passion for helping others achieve their goals.
“My proudest moments occur during the one on one counseling sessions with program participants. I get to help them look at an issue they’re having in a new way and open their eyes to an ‘a-ha’ moment where they realize they can accomplish things they never thought they could.”
Pat’s accomplishments go beyond her undivided attention to Can Do MS. In 2001, she was a finalist for the Nightingale Award in Colorado for outstanding nursing practice. In 2007, she was a recipient of the June Halper Award for Excellence in MS Nursing and most recently she was elected President of the International Organization of MS Nurses.
Whether it be speaking at MS conferences all over North America, commuting two hours to the Can Do MS offices in the snow or helping create innovative lifestyle empowerment programs for people with MS, Pat’s track record embodies the can do spirit and we thank her for that!
“I can help others discover they are more than their MS.”
From Managing Kitchens to Managing MS; Trevis L Gleason’s Life with Multiple Sclerosis
It wouldn’t be putting too fine a point on it to say that Trevis L Gleason’s culinary career had reached the stratosphere, both metaphorically and actually. While teaching at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, Chef Trevis was tapped by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to develop a network of farmer-owned bakeries in the former Soviet Republic of Ukraine. Upon returning to the United States, he became Director of Operations for the California Culinary Academy.
By the time 2001 rolled around Gleason was jetting a quarter of a million miles annually for a German manufacturing company, training chefs and consulting to renowned restaurants and hotels. Then MS stuck a pin in the chef’s high-flying ways.
“Along with all of the physical difficulties MS brought into my life,” Gleason says, “I had fallen into the very American trap of defining myself by what I did.”
Without the career upon which he had pinned his persona, Chef Trevis was in danger of chaining MS to his life and he felt that weight taking him under.
“It was a long, hard battle,” he recounts, “but with the help of a crack medical team, an amazing rehab psychologist and supportive friends and family I found a new purpose in my life and a new focus.”
Like many people who know Can Do Multiple Sclerosis founder Jimmie Heuga’s story, Trevis found strength in the idea of understanding and accepting limitations not as a way of giving up, but rather as a way of managing the energies still available to him. Like running a six-restaurant hotel on a day that several employees call out sick, Trevis has learned to re-allocate his personal resources, prioritize his day and focus on getting done what can be done rather than what cannot.
Now an advocate for people living with MS and an award winning blogger on the topic of living with chronic illness, he has returned to his former passion for cooking and rediscovered his love for writing. Combining his passions, Chef Trevis put together a team of experts in nutrition, dietetics, shopping and cooking to create “The Caring Kitchen” video for people living with MS. The video will be released on Can Do Day (9/22/2012) at an event for newly diagnosed patients where Trevis is a featured speaker. The video will also be available online through his website on Saturday, September 22nd.
In addition to his passion for cooking, writing the Life With MS Blog for nearly seven years has reawakened his love of writing. His newly completed manuscript about the living part of living with MS is currently in publication talks.
While he won’t candy-coat the fact that MS has made his life much more difficult and challenging than it once was, Trevis chooses to focus on the can do spirit, rather than the cannot.
“Although I no longer cook professionally, I CAN use my professional expertise to help people with MS.” - Trevis L. Gleason
How will you celebrate Can Do Day? Tell us on our Facebook!
The success of Can Do MS is directly related to the wonderful volunteers who help make our programs and events a great experience. Our programs are possible because of people like Terry Owens-Alvarez, who is heavily involved with Can Do MS fundraising events like Vertical Express for Can Do MS. This winter series is our largest fundraising event and was created by our founder Jimmie Heuga 28 years ago in Alaska. For Terry, her involvement began in 1995, thanks to a friend.
“I had a friend living with MS who was involved with Can Do MS and she asked me to volunteer at the Squaw Valley Vertical Express event and take some pictures.”
After her first event, Terry was hooked.
“I immediately went from having one friend with MS to twelve. I really got to know them and instantly became inspired by their stories. After that there was no looking back and I have looked forward to the events every year.”
Terry’s involvement with Vertical Express for Can Do MS at Squaw Valley, CA has run the gamut. After starting out as a volunteer taking pictures she soon became more involved in organizing the Squaw Valley event along with fundraising pre-events. In 2000, Terry co-created the first Annual Winter Wine and Ski Expo in Reno, NV. This event typically hosts 600 people who have a deep passion for tasting fine wine and food, while shopping for the best ski gear! In addition to the Winter Wine and Ski Expo she has been organizing the Alpen Wine Fest which takes place in the fall at Squaw Valley for over 20 years. Wine lovers enjoy a variety of wines served in a souvenir crystal wine glass. Combined, Terry’s two events help raise over $35,000 for Can Do MS every year.
Many of Terry’s friends notice how much work she puts into planning and organizing these events and ask her “why?”
“Why do I spend so much time on something I don’t get paid for? Because I get paid with good times, great friends and the opportunity to befriend the people whose lives are changed because of the money these events raise.”
Terry’s can do spirit extends into other causes, but she places Vertical Express for Can Do MS at the top of her list. She feels a close-knit family connection that has been nurtured over the years with those who participate. Just like a child looking forward to the first day of summer camp, each year the Can Do MS supporters who attend do so because they get to re-connect with old friends, drink wine, ski and most importantly, raise money for people living with MS and their support partners!
It is truly a breath of fresh air to meet someone who voluntarily works so hard and cares more about the cause than the financial rewards. From pre-event planning to day-of implementation, Terry does it all.
“I do it because I love the family that the Squaw Valley Vertical Express for Can Do MS event has created and to make a difference in the lives of people with MS.”
Going to be in the Tahoe area on September 2nd? Buy your tickets to the 24th Annual Alpen Wine Fest now!
Imagine yourself at 28 years old...You’re a highly motivated and successful lawyer, living your dream working at one of the nation’s most prestigious blue chip law firms. You work ten, stress-filled hours a day and end up each night exhausted on your couch. You keep telling yourself that being this tired is from your stressful job. You are in great shape, running on a regular basis when one day you get shooting electric-like surges in your neck and down your spine. That coupled with the numbness in your limbs is enough for you to visit a doctor. In what seems like an instant, your life changes. The doctor explains that you have multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that attacks your brain and spinal cord, which has no cure.
This was Karen Brisch’s life before Can Do Multiple Sclerosis.
“Getting diagnosed was extremely difficult. I was scared to go to sleep at night, because I didn’t know how my body would feel when I woke up the next morning. I would think, will I need a wheelchair to get around tomorrow? Ironically, I was worried about worrying. I was also scared to do much of anything, for fear that I might accidentally make the disease worse or provoke another symptom. Could I keep exercising? Stay up late? Work hard? Go to happy hour? I didn't know.”
After Karen’s diagnosis, she realized she had far more questions than answers. Being an active and driven woman, she was perplexed by advice such as “take it easy” and “go visit a museum.”
Karen was determined to get her life back. During the summer of 2011, Karen’s family discovered Can Do Multiple Sclerosis while vacationing in Vail, Colorado and immediately decided to research Can Do MS online.
“I googled Can Do MS and was surprised to read a description of a program that I had needed for such a long time.”
That next day Karen and her husband Mike walked into Can Do MS and applied for our May 2012 CAN DO® Program.
“The description of the program that really stuck with me was the idea that this program picked up where the doctors left off. I really hoped that the program would address all of the uncertainties that the doctors could not or would not address. I wanted a more comprehensive, life-style approach to managing my MS.”
While attending the program, Karen worked on her two biggest battles with MS - fatigue and cognitive issues. She learned that proper exercise and nutrition were key to reducing her fatigue and improving her stamina and cognition. Karen’s approach to exercise before the program was to give 150% for as long as she could, resulting in disabling fatigue and a long recovery time. Our programs consultants taught her that exercising just 20 minutes a day at a comfortable pace was all she needed. Not only did Karen receive individualized care from our programs consultants, she also got inspired.
“I think the relationships are magic. Having people you respect believe that you can do what you’ve set out to do is even more magical. It has really, really had a huge impact on my motivation and desire to achieve the goals that I set during the program.”
Karen’s new approach to managing her fatigue and cognitive issues has ignited her can do spirit. She wants to combine two of her passions to help pass on this spirit. She hopes to pair rescued foster dogs with former inmates reintegrating into society, for companionship, unconditional love and training.
“Without the CAN DO Program I would have never thought I could manage my fatigue enough to undertake a large task on my own. Once you’ve received a magical gift, though, you really do have to pass it on. There is nothing that I’d love more than having the energy to help others who really need someone to believe in them. I want to lift people up and give them the tools to overcome their life challenges, just like the CAN DO Program did for me.”
Meet Brian and Jen Talon from Connecticut, whose story is an amazing and inspirational example of a husband and wife supporting and inspiring each other through life’s challenges.
In 2010 Jen was diagnosed with MS. During her diagnosis she was in the middle of an extremely demanding 3 year dental hygiene program at a local college. She was one of 24 accepted into this prestigious program out of hundreds of applicants. When the director of the hygiene program found out Jen had been diagnosed with MS, she suggested that Jen withdraw from the program because of the physical limitations associated with MS. Jen’s response was short and to the point, “Absolutely not!”
Not only did Jen complete the program, she also became the recipient of the distinguished Dental Hygiene Award of Excellence; largely in part for her volunteer work with the community.
Life has changed considerably for the Talon family since the diagnosis. Jen once raced marathons and went on long hikes with her husband and two kids. Unfortunately, the days of running marathons are over-at least for now.
“With my MS it’s all about energy management, I need to determine what matters most and concentrate on those activities. For me that includes keeping up with our five and seven year old daughters and my work.” -Jen Talon
For Jen, MS has made her a stronger person as she has learned to cope and manage the disease instead of it managing her.
At first, the diagnosis was difficult for Brian to cope with. However, over time Brian saw how Jen managed the disease and was inspired by her positive can do attitude while meeting the challenges of everyday life.
Like his wife Jen, Brian is also a marathon runner. He has run over 20 marathons in the span of ten years. The next marathon he plans to run is a little different than your typical marathon. On June 23rd Brian will be running the Western States 100 Mile Endurance run in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California.
“This 100 mile run through the mountains starts at the base of Squaw Valley Ski Resort and over the first four miles climbs 2,550 feet to an elevation of nearly 9,000 feet above sea level. Over the initial 20 miles, I will be running through miles of snow fields with temperatures potentially starting around 20 degrees. You then enter some deep canyons in Central California where the heat can climb into the 110 degree range. If you survive this, you are rewarded with running the trails for up to 10 hours overnight in darkness. The race itself is actually the reward for the thousands of training miles that will be logged leading into the event. “ -Brian Talon
In eight days Brian will come face to face with the “endurance marathon.”
“Seeing Jen take her diagnosis in stride and continue to live a full life really got me motivated to push my limits while raising money for an organization that has helped thousands of people manage their MS and take back control of their lives.”-Brian Talon
While preparing for the race, Brian and Jen have raised over $8,000 for our organization through their own fundraising efforts. Jen is inspired by everyone who is supporting Brian and Can Do MS’s mission. Today you’ll find Jen living the can do spirit by taking Sunday hikes with the family.
“Up next for her is to tackle a few mountains this summer while we vacation in Colorado.” -Brian Talon
As you can see the Talons are dedicated to one another. Each one inspires the other to accomplish things they never thought possible. Let this be a reminder to pass on your can do spirit with your loved ones.
Please help support Brian and Jen, donate today!
As we enter the 28th year of our flagship CAN DO Program, we are pleased to share highlights of our interview with Dr. Jon Feeney, who was an integral part in the creation and execution of the first CAN DO Program in 1984. A mutual friend introduced Dr. Feeney and Jimmie Heuga at the American Ski Classic in Vail, CO… and the rest is history.
“Jimmie told me about his story that he had MS and wanted to start a center about wellness with MS. I told him that I was a local physician interested in wellness and to give me a call whenever he needed my help.”
During the summer of ‘84, Dr. Feeney and Jimmie worked together to create a tailored exercise program. Since every case of MS is different, they emphasized that this exercise program must be modified to the fit specific needs of each participant. By integrating Dr. Feeney’s medical expertise with Jimmie’s perspective as an Olympic athlete, who was living with MS, they created the first CAN DO Program in September of 1984.
In its early stages, the CAN DO Program focused primarily on exercise. Over the years, however, exercise has become just one part of this multi-disciplinary program.
“What sets this program apart from any other MS program is its multi-disciplinary approach; we look at the whole person, including their physical health, emotional state, family, intellect, and spiritual beliefs. We wanted people to change their priorities. Instead of looking at what they could not do, we wanted them to focus on what they could do.”
Program participants receive one-on-one consultations with an array of medical professionals, which include: neurologists, psychologists, urologist, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists, to name just a few. All of our medical experts agree that their expertise is just one element of a larger plan to empower people living with MS to lead fuller lives. By all accounts, it takes a unique person to become a Can Do MS Programs Consultant.
“They need to be uniquely skilled, dedicated to the participant, intellectual, and fun. Most importantly, they must be able to check their egos at the door.”
Although our Programs Consultants are a large part of what makes the CAN DO Program successful, the camaraderie among program participants is just as important. In the days leading up to the four-day program, participants go through a wave of anxiety. But this anxiety is put to ease when they realize that others living with MS are feeling a similar anxiety. When CAN DO Program alumni are asked about what helped them the most at our four-day program, we usually get the same answer – I am not alone. They believe that once you attend a CAN DO Program, you become part of a family that loves unconditionally and cares for one other. That sense of family is what helps program alumni stay motivated to keep a “can do attitude” year after year.
Just like a well engineered machine, when all aspects of the CAN DO Program are merged, participants often have a life changing experience in four days. As a close friend of Jimmie Heuga, Dr. Feeney understands Jimmie’s philosophy fully and carries that with him at every CAN DO Program.
“Jimmie had a unique perspective of what made him feel better and an amazing ability to pass on his positive can do attitude on to others participating in the program." Interested in learning more about our CAN DO Program? CLICK HERE
Reading the stories that inspired each square on the I AM. I CAN. I QUILT. Fundraiser, you can’t help but feel moved to think of your own Can Do Spirit and the power that comes from people uniting to create a work of art.
The woman behind the quilt, Michelle Keating, returned from the CAN DO Program in May 2007 with a desire to give back.
“I had a complete scholarship; I wanted to see as many people as possible have the opportunity to go to the program. It was a life changing experience for me, even after living with MS for 28 years.”
Quilts have a language of their own and can be incredible story tellers. Michelle describes the message of the quilt as one of hope.
“Hope for the people that complete the squares and can share their story, hope for the people that are inspired by the creativity and stories, and hope for those that can support the project and give back.”
The quilt is a collection of incredibly powerful experiences shared by individuals living with MS and the people that support them. Not only does the quilt tell a story, but it brings awareness to the power behind a Can Do Spirit.
In those years since her diagnosis, Michelle has overcome many obstacles that life has thrown her way, and she says that today she feels healthier than she’s ever been since the diagnosis. But it hasn’t always been like that. After her initial diagnosis, Michelle recalls feelings of fear, grief and anxiety.
“I was shocked, very shocked. Though there are challenges MS has brought into my life since that day, I prefer to focus on the blessings.”
Michelle had a good grasp of her life with MS long before attending the CAN DO Program. She knew that living a full life with MS was possible. She knew a lot about MS. She had a positive outlook. Even with all of this, the CAN DO Program was able to empower Michelle and give her new tools that allowed her to make a realistic, day-by-day plan to stick with it and achieve her goals.
“With a staff ratio of 2:1, I received unbelievable personal attention that is indeed rare in health care today. Since the program, I honestly believe that I’ve improved tremendously.”
Michelle’s quilt demonstrates journeys, just like her own, through life with MS and moving beyond the challenges of MS. The I AM. I CAN. I QUILT. is now completed and measures 63” x 63”. Tickets are on sale now! Click here for more information on the Can Do MS Quilt Raffle.
The drawing will be held November 10th, 2012 at our CAN DO Program Celebration Dinner in Vail, CO with all proceeds benefiting Can Do MS.
“I can live my Can Do Spirit everyday!”
Many people encounter a time when life as they know it falls to pieces. That happened to Tara Lane when she was 16 years old. As an award winning figure skater, competing was her life and greatest passion. At 16, that was all taken away from her by one 30 minute doctor appointment. Her intense training schedule had taken a toll on her body and resulted in several fractures on her legs and severe muscle damage. A two year recovery period began and skating became a distant memory.
“Everything I knew, identified with, and defined me as a person was instantly gone. Little did I know it was just a test for what my future was to bring.”
After realizing she would never return to the career she once had, Tara rediscovered purpose and passion as a figure and power skating coach. Then another doctor’s appointment changed her life. On March 2, 2000, she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis – 3 weeks after her wedding. Scared and uncertain, two things went through her mind, “That my skating was going to be taken away from me for the 2nd time and I was going to have to get an annulment.” After the initial shock, she took a step back and realized she was going to have to adapt, yet again.
Following Tara’s diagnosis of MS, she tried to manage her health, career, and first year of marriage amidst a demanding schedule. Ultimately she failed at all three. So in April of 2001, she knew she was going to have to make some changes and decided to focus on what she was most passionate about – her health, skating and life with her husband. But as these things sometimes do, the focus faded and she slipped back into her hectic lifestyle and the pace put her in a ten week relapse.
“I was numb for the waist down as were both my hands.”
This was the perfect lesson for Tara to realize that she had to slow down and it didn’t come easy, but with tremendous support from family and friends, Tara’s life took on new meaning.
It was during this time that Tara and Matt decided to relocate to the Vail Valley to live a dream instead of talk about it. In an effort to meet people, she started volunteering at Can Do MS and the more she learned about Jimmie Heuga’s story and philosophy, the more she realized she could relate to him.
“After learning about the four day CAN DO Program and what it offered, I realized that I had not addressed the WHOLE me and there was more that I could do for myself and husband.”
Having just moved to Colorado Tara and Matt could not afford to pay to attend the program, so she applied for a scholarship and in May 2007 Matt and Tara attended the CAN DO Program in Vail.
“The CAN DO Program is an amazing and unique experience that everyone with MS should experience. Meeting with the specialists and attending the lectures just confirmed that the positive living strategies that I live by are working while giving me suggestions to further improve my life, overall health and live my best life possible. Most importantly, it helped me realize my true potential.”
After being diagnosed in high school, Carl has been living with MS for nearly 34 years. Carl chuckles and says, “I’m lucky – I got my chronic disease out of the way early and now everyone is catching up.” On his way to college with a basketball scholarship, Carl was told by doctors in 1980 that the way to live a long, healthy life with MS was to stop being active and stay cool. As in, never break a sweat - “That didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me,” he remembers.
Sports had been a big part of Carl’s life before and after his diagnosis. His sister, Catherine, who attended the CAN DO Program with Carl in 2010, said this was how they came to know about Can Do MS in the first place. A family friend roped them into the Squaw Valley - Vertical Express for Can Do MS fundraising event and it was a great way for the whole family to get involved through skiing. Carl had stopped exercising as often, but when he heard the lifestyle principles that Jimmie Heuga was promoting, he had to be involved.
“My family is super supportive and I have great friends. At one point we had 7 teams all raising money.” This included Catherine’s team, with sisters Lisa and Jennifer, fittingly dubbed “Chicks on Sticks.”
After fundraising for years, Carl finally decided to attend the CAN DO Program in 2010. “It was amazing,” Carl recalls. “It’s a place to share experiences. The medical staff are so intuitive and so dialed into what each person needs, can do and what their limitations are. They put a great program together for me that was really tailored to where I was in my life.”
Catherine also felt reinvigorated and increased her drive to raise money and participate, which led her to become a board member for Can Do MS.
Catherine emphasizes that, “Even after all of our years as a family dealing with MS, I didn’t realize the full complexity of MS. It has impacts beyond just physical problems – there are psychological and intellectual elements as well, and the program addresses all of those challenges. “
Carl adds, “What is really special about the program is that it recognizes and addresses support partners and gave them a forum to share and be heard. MS is an uninvited guest and it invades every element of life for people that have it thrust upon them, and it can be really hard.”
Carl’s sister describes him as an incredibly positive person and it’s infectious.
As I’m ending the interview with Carl on his can do story, he says something that sticks with me as we say our goodbyes, “I left Vail with a realization that my MS is only a part of my life, not my whole life.”
Six days after Kevin W. moved to Colorado to be closer to his father and mother, Kevin’s dad collapsed. He was rushed to the hospital and diagnosed with terminal cancer. Kevin dropped everything to care for his father. But despite his best efforts, Kevin’s father passed away six months after he moved to Colorado.
Neglecting his health care while caring for his family, he had ballooned to 355 pounds and was feeling constantly fatigued. He could not walk 100 feet and was debating a wheelchair. The combination of his weight, losing his father, and then a diagnosis of MS left him severely depressed.
Finding strength in a promise he made to his father that he would care for his ailing mother, Kevin began to exercise. The results were slow but obvious. He lost weight. His mobility returned, but living on a fixed income, and not able to work, Kevin felt his life lacked purpose. He wasn’t seeing any further progress in his health or outlook. “Emotionally, physically, I was a wreck.”
Kevin’s doctor at the time recommended the CAN DO Program. He had known Jimmie Heuga and was familiar with the life changing programs that Can Do MS offered to individuals with MS. Kevin didn’t think he could afford the program or even the travel costs associated with it, but his doctor was persistent and Kevin finally made the call to the organization. In 2010, he contacted Can Do MS and was offered a full scholarship to attend the program.
“I didn’t know what to expect. I was having some success; I was in remission, but I was winging it and I was at a standstill. Everyone made me feel really welcome. I had never met anyone with MS. Everything I did was by myself and then we all got to talk and share ideas – it made me realize that I had shut myself out. “
The world renowned medical professionals that make up the Can Do MS Program Staff strongly recommended volunteer work and gave Kevin the tools and motivation to take charge of his life and find purpose. “I was motivated to be proactive about my MS. I learned everything about my overall health from nutrition to physical training limits and even bladder problems. They showed me how much I could do without damage – the smart way of exercising. They give you access to so much information for every aspect of your life. I finally had peace of mind and direction to take in life.”
Since then, Kevin has helped connect a woman newly diagnosed with a neurologist who supports an active way of treating MS. He raises awareness by giving interviews and speeches to newspapers and local groups. He even has helped someone as far away as Australia with advice and encouragement.
“The one take away that I really got was direction. Something clicked from Day 1. It gave me a purpose for my entire life – helping people, being an advocate. I think it is part of what I was meant to do. I was just spinning my wheels; I was getting by, frustrated psychologically and bent out of shape. They focused on the whole me, spiritually, psychologically and physically.”
“I’m not able to do huge things, but what I learned is that I can still do small things that matter.”