Watch CBSN Live

Standing Behind Heuga Center

Multiple sclerosis is the most prevalent neurological disease among young adults. About 400,000 Americans suffer from the disease.

Back in 1964, Jimmie Heuga was a young skier from Lake Tahoe, Calif., who would rise to heights never seen by an American skier at the Olympics. In the 1964 Olympic slalom, he and Billy Kidd took bronze and silver - the first U.S. men to win Olympic medals in Alpine skiing. The gold medalist was Austria's Pepi Stiegler.

The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith talked to all these gentlemen on Thanksgiving Day.

Heuga was still skiing competitively in the '60s when he were diagnosed with MS. The message he got from the doctors, he says, was, "go home and avoid any kind of stress. They thought that stress would speed the progression of the disease."

He took that advice for several years afterwards. But then, one day, Huega says he couldn't deal with it any longer.

"Exercise is something I've always done," he says, "I just had to go out and give myself a sense of direction, control over my life."

What is interesting is that a couple of years ago some very profound studies have been done that said that everything that he did (being outdoors, running around, and skiing) are the things that contradict the medical establishment.

Heuga says, "Today, we're showing that people can safely exercise with a well-designed program for each person. And that they must exercise to stave off the progression of other conditions, like heart disease, stroke and cancer."

Pepi Stiegler has kept in touch with Heuga and knew about his condition. Then he discovered that he, too, has MS. He says, "I was extremely surprised to be diagnosed for that."

To find a cure for the disease, Heuga started The Heuga Center, which Billy Kidd has supported over the years. Though Kidd has been busy involved with the skiing program at Steamboat Springs, he has taken the time to ski with his friend and be encouraging about what he does.

Kidd says, "Jimmie really changed the way people thought about MS, whether it's people with MS -- what's their future? What's the medical community's attitude toward MS? And I saw Jimmie change people's minds about that. He's making a contribution that really changed people's lives. I'm just trying to make a small difference and help him. But also he's fun to hang around with."

A fund-raising event is the Jimmy Heuga Snow Express, in which Heuga skis to raise money for MS every winter season. Kidd explains, "We have the Jimmy Heuga Expresses around the country and then culminating with the finals in Vail in April."

For more information on how you can help fight MS, call: The Heuga Center at 1-800-367-3101 or 1-888-DO-IT-4-M.S.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.