Denver, CO (OCT. 23) -- Former Olympic medalist Jimmie Heuga of Vail is the Rocky Mountain regional finalist for the Texaco Star Award. Heuga's "can-do" approach to living with multiple sclerosis led to creation of the Jimmie Heuga Center. He was honored Oct. 23 at the black-tie Colorado Ski & Snowboard Ball at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Denver.
The first annual Texaco Star Award honors the contributions of U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team alumni to their communities. Five regional finalists - from the Midwest, Intermountain, Rocky Mountains, East and West Coast - have been selected. A $1,000 check will be presented to the charity of their choice. The winner of the Texaco Star Award will be chosen from the regional finalists with $10,000 being donated in his or her name to their favorite charity during the New York Ski & Snowboard Ball on Nov. 8.
"What Jimmie Heuga has accomplished with his positive attitude has been an example to so many others - he stands for the best of everything we want the Texaco Star Award to represent. Jimmie has made an incredible difference in the lives of many people," said Polly Rua, Manager of Sponsorships. "Texaco is proud of our partnership with the US Ski and Snowboard Association and the creation of the Texaco Star Award; an Award that reflects Texaco's commitment to support the communities in which we operate and where our employees work and live."
Heuga has designated the Jimmie Heuga Center to be the recipient of the $1,000 check. The Center, based in Vail Valley, provides high quality medical, rehabilitative and educational programs to people with chronic diseases. The Center, founded in 1984, focuses on a person's wellness and encourages them to live healthy, active lives.
"Skiing has given me so much and the opportunity to give something back has been a true reward for me," Heuga said. "Doctors used to ask me, 'How long have you been sick?' And I'd tell them, 'I'm not sick...but I have this disease.' At the center, we try to address a wide range of issues in a person's life so they can recapture their health." Initially designed to help multiple sclerosis victims, Heuga's vision is to have the Center assist anyone who has a physical challenge. "There's certainly no end to the challenges we can address," he said.
Heuga grew up in California's Lake Tahoe area, and joined the U.S. Ski Team in 1959. He raced in the 1964 and 1968 Olympics - winning the bronze medal in slalom at the 1964 Winter Games in Innsbruck, Austria. Heuga also competed in the 1962 and 1966 World Championships and was the national slalom champion in 1960 and again in 1967.
After retiring from skiing in 1968, Heuga was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and advised by doctors to reduce his activities to conserve his energy - 'sit back and wait for a cure.' "Well, that's never happened," Heuga said. He approached the disease - for which there is no known cure - with his trademark gusto, continuing to participate in a wide variety of activities. The Jimmie Heuga Express, a fundraising initiative in support of the Jimmie Heuga Center, visits about two dozen ski resorts every winter with many volunteers, including former U.S. Ski Team and international racers as well as a variety of celebrities, producing about a million dollars a year.
The annual Colorado Ski & Snowboard Ball, one of the premier fundraising events for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team Foundation, was held Oct. 23 at the downtown Hyatt Regency Hotel in Denver. For more details, contact the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team Foundation at 435.647-2023 or 1.800.809.SNOW.