Steamboat Springs For Allie Barr, multiple sclerosis is a day-to-day disease. Each day could bring new symptoms and new feelings.
For some, getting through the day is the main focus, but for Barr, the importance of family support is her first concentration.
At 15 years old, Jimmie Heuga was the youngest male ever named to the U.S. Olympic Ski Training Squad. In 1964, he won the bronze medal, which was one of the first Olympic medals for men's alpine skiing. Billy Kidd won the silver medal the same year for the same event. In 1970, Heuga was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and lived a sedentary life for the next six years. He found himself depressed living a life of non-activity, with mind and body deteriorating through the years. But through a rigorous exercise regimen and self-motivation, Heuga got back on his feet to create The Heuga Center in Vail in 1984. In 1997, he had helped nearly 2,000 people reclaim their health. Heuga's vision: to empower people living with multiple sclerosis and other chronic conditions to learn to live life to its fullest through exercise and lifestyle changes. Heuga recently was awarded the Multiple Sclerosis Achievement Award by the Colorado Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. He has been nominated for the 2000 National MS Achievement Award. Heuga soon will be moving to the Doak Walker Care Center in Steamboat Springs.
Barr, a resident of Steamboat for about 25 years, was active and energetic before being diagnosed with the disease in the fall of 2000. Although now her world works at a slower pace, Barr said she remains active through physical therapy.
The uncertainties with MS are challenging, but Barr said finding a balance and not getting over exhausted is key.
"I've never been a high-stress person, but I take things a lot slower now," Barr said.
Through her eyes, Barr's sees a future that includes a cure for MS based on the large strides that researchers already have taken.
With her recent onset of MS, Barr said she prays everyday that more research will be done for one of the most disabling neurological diseases.
"It's kind of like the last thing I thought I'd be doing," Barr said of the disease. "I always thought these things happened to other people. I was pretty surprised."
With her active participation in supporting research and scholarships, Barr and her family will be forming their first group this year to compete and raise money for Snow Express for MS.
For the past 16 years, Mount Werner has hosted a Snow Express for MS day on March 4 to support The Jimmie Heuga Center.
Each year teams of three people demonstrate their racing and fund-raising skills by entering the Snow Express for MS with a minimum of $1,000. Although snow riders don't need speedy talents, the faster they go, the better the chances are that they will be going on an all-expense-paid trip to Vail for the international finals in April.
Who wins the race depends on a variety of factors: every dollar raised is a point, the number of runs in a marathon equal a number of points and a team's combination of time in the dual giant slalom adds additional points for a grand total.
Prizes vary from ski jackets to gift certificates from sponsors. If participants cannot raise the entire $1,000, the event coordinators will match them with other teams that have raised the required amount.
The day consists of a free breakfast, followed by a three-hour marathon in which each member of a team takes to a snow course to make as many runs as possible as fast as possible. After lunch, a dual giant slalom occurs and an awards party follows.
"We have everyone (participating) from kids to grandmas, beginners and racers," said Stacey Kramer, one of the event coordinators. "You don't have to be a great snow rider to participate."
The Heuga Center is a non-profit, research organization dedicated to improving the lives of people with multiple sclerosis through medical wellness programs and research. More than 3,000 people have benefited from The Heuga Center's intense individualized training sessions.
The core program is a five-day training course that covers nutrition, exercise and and understanding of how to deal with MS. The five-day program costs $6,000, but those who participate in Snow Express for MS will only pay $2,000, with also the possibility to receive scholarships.
Snow Express for MS has more than 20 events across the United States, from Maine to Steamboat Springs. The only other areas in Colorado sponsoring the event are Copper Mountain and Aspen Highlands.
John Main and brothers Ray and Anthony Mazzola will race for the Delta Electric team in this year's event and try to raise more than they did last year, which was $2,500.
Last year, Main said he and the others skied to win third place in the race, but because the event is based on a variety of factors, they didn't end up too high on the list of winners.
"It was real fun and we're excited to do it again this year," Main said.
Money from the event is raised for research in conjunction with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society for potential cures. Kramer said they've recently found a connection between diabetes and multiple sclerosis. Scholarships for those entering The Heuga Center also are raised through Snow Express for MS.
Twenty-five percent of the money raised from the event stays in the community to help with other non-profit organizations. Of the 25 percent, one-half goes to the Routt County United Way and the other is used for scholarships to attend the center.
Millie Beall of Routt County United Way said people who get involved will contribute not only to people with multiple sclerosis, but to the community at large. More than 20 agencies and programs in Routt County will receive funds from this year's United Way budget. Beall said she hopes United Way will raise more than $6,500, which was last year's grand total earnings.
"We don't want people in the community to think that they shouldn't get involved because they are not affected by MS," Beall said. "The funds that come back to United Way are allotted to the health and human service agencies in the community."
United Way will gather some of the 35 volunteers needed to put on this year's Snow Express for MS.
Last year, The Heuga Center raised $75,000, but this year's goal is $65,000. Kramer said teams raise between $1,000 and $20,000 during each year's event.
"It was completely unexpected that we raised $75,000 last year, so this year we've made it attainable," Kramer said of last year's 24 teams that participated. "If we can raise more, great."
Kramer estimates about 40 teams will race in this year's event, but until registration the day before, March 3, no one will know.
"This is an event for the whole family, people with MS or those family members dealing with it," Kramer said.
By supporting Heuga's mission to overcome the physical challenges and become involved, Kramer said she hopes others with MS also will be inspired.
"We're trying to instill the understanding that everyone has abilities and we need to emphasize what people can do, not what they can't," Kramer said.
Although Barr has not visited The Heuga Center, she said she has heard positive things about it and supports Heuga's mission.
"The awareness is out there. People need to know that this is a real thing, it affects people that you see every day," Barr said. "I certainly wouldn't want to be doing this alone."