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New York, Nov. 9–Olympic medallist Jimmie Heuga, whose “can-do” approach and determination to do more than wait for a cure for multiple sclerosis, was today named the inaugural winner of the Texaco Star Award, a collaborative program between Texaco and the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA), honoring USSA alumni for their hard work and dedication off the slopes in the area of community service through volunteerism, leadership development in the non-profit sector, mentoring, and community outreach programs.
Heuga was presented $10,000 for the charity of his choice, the JimmieHeuga Center in Vail, Colo., during the award luncheon today at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.
Heuga, 56, excited Americans during the 1964 Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria when he became one of the first American men to win an Olympic ski medal — the bronze in slalom. Years later he applied his gusto and determination to the creation of the Jimmie Heuga Center that is dedicated to helping those physically challenged by disease to live healthy, active lives.
“Texaco is proud to announce Jimmie Heuga as the first recipient of theTexaco Star Award – he embodies the very essence of the Texaco Star Award,” said Polly W. Rua, Manager of Sponsorships. “As a result of his hard work and dedication, the lives of countless individuals suffering from chronic illnesses have been enriched.”
Heuga was chosen from five regional finalists who have employed the same passion and energy that they used to become world class athletes to make their communities better places to live. The regional finalists were announced at USSA’s Ski & Snowboard Balls across the U.S. They received a $1,000 check for the charity of their choice.
Finalists included Andrea Mead Lawrence of Mammoth Lakes, Calif., a double Olympic gold medallist who was honored for three decades of work on behalf of environmental conservation on and planning in California’s Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains; Jeff Pagels of Green Bay, Wis., winner of two Paralympic gold medals who now serves as mobility-impaired coordinator for Ski For Light, an organization that introduces disabled persons to cross country skiing; Sally Harris Rytting of Salt Lake City, Utah, a member of the first women’s Olympic team in 1948, who spent more than three decades actively involved in numerous community activities, including several aimed at working with disadvantaged children; and Sally Knight Utter of Waitsfield, Vt., an All American alpine ski racer who founded Camp ForMe, a week-long summer day camp for adopted children, some who have special needs.
“Texaco applauds all the finalists for the Texaco Star Award; these individuals have demonstrated the true meaning of ‘giving’,” said Rua. “By applying the Olympic ideals of vision, focus, commitment, persistence and discipline to their community activities they have made a vast difference in the lives of many people.”
Heuga, who grew up racing in the California’s Lake Tahoe area, retired from skiing after competing in his second Olympics in 1968. Shortly thereafter, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and advised by doctors to reduce his activities to conserve his energy and ‘sit back and wait for a cure.’ “I was really frustrated as I sat there watching my life pass – and I remember thinking, ‘I’ve got to reanimate my life, got to get back into life again.’ I don’t even know if reanimate was a word then, but that’s what I told myself I had to do,” said Heuga.
In 1984, he started the Jimmie Heuga Center, initially aimed at multiple sclerosis victims but recently expanded to work with diabetics in helping them recapture their health and improve the quality of their lives, factoring-in psycho-social concerns for the individual as well as physical concerns.
“We address a wide range of issues so they can recapture their health.”
He credited the nation’s ski industry for helping to raise nearly a million dollars a year over the past 15 years to underwwrite programs at the Heuga Center. “Exercise is the basis for the Center,” said Heuga, “and skiing has been wonderful to me, so the opportunity to give something back has been a true reward for me.”