Can Do Multiple Sclerosis

Can Do Multiple Sclerosis is a national nonprofit organization that provides innovative lifestyle empowerment programs for people living with MS and their support partners.

Organizational Overview

Can Do Multiple Sclerosis
100 W. Beaver Creek Blvd., Ste 200
Avon, CO 81620
(2009)The Heuga Center for MS
Can Do MS leads the way with comprehensive programs that empower people and families living with MS to transform and improve their quality of life.


Can Do MS offers personalized and experiential programs that take a unique whole person, whole health, whole community view of maximizing health and life with MS. These programs equip participants with the expanded knowledge, skills, tools and confidence necessary to adopt healthy lifestyle behaviors, actively co-manage their disease, and live their best lives. Can Do MS honors the legacy and beliefs of organizational founder, Jimmie Heuga, who embodied a positive, "can do" philosophy. As Jimmie did, we believe that you can stay well and live well with MS.

Can Do Multiple Sclerosis has been headquartered in Colorado since its founding in 1984. Through its collaboration with over 70 MS experts (Program Consultants) in 2014-2015, Can Do MS has been able to provide programs and services to over 11,600 people. These programs and services make Can Do MS unique, as we are the only organization recognizing the special role of MS support partners. Each of our programs incorporates aspects specifically tailored to their needs and well-being.

Our CAN DO® Program took place in Denver June 10th-13th, 2015. Offering 24 people with MS and their 24 support partners, we were able to provide a nearly 1:1 staff-to-participant ratio, guaranteeing that each person received personal attention. The June 2015 program marked the 86th time the CAN DO® Program has been presented in Colorado since its launch in 1984. In that time, 524 Coloradoans have participated in this program. The CAN DO® Program is offered for a nominal $150 registration fee. Lodging, meals, and activities throughout the program are offered free of charge. The estimated value per participant of the CAN DO® Program is $12,000. As our flagship program, we will continue to feature this program once a year moving forward.

Looking forward to 2016, the Can Do MS programs department is launching a multi-day adaptive program. After putting on a number of one-day adaptive ski experiences, we learned that the need for adaptive sports is much greater than anticipated. In a survey about adaptive activities conducted by Can Do MS, 62% of the 350 respondents indicated that they have not participated in any adaptive recreation programs due to financial difficulties and/or limited access to equipment or instruction, combined with managing MS related symptoms. While there are several adaptive sports programs that exist in the MS community, none of these programs incorporate MS education and symptom management to help people living with MS adapt to the sport/s on a regular basis.

The Can Do MS adaptive program will focus on recreational activities, such as hiking, canoeing and cycling, with complementary educational workshops that will aid participants in managing their MS symptoms while performing these adaptive activities. Educational workshop topics will include fatigue and energy management, exercise adherence, motivation and goal setting, as well as overall health and wellness. This program will be led by outdoor adaptive sports professionals, an occupational therapist, a physical therapist, a nurse and psychologist. The inaugural program will be held in Northern California in 2016.

In addition to the adaptive program, Can Do MS will be launching our inaugural Young Professional's Program in the fall of 2016. Located in New York City, this program will cater to the 12,000 + people living with MS in the Manhattan area, many of whom are young professionals between the ages of 18-40 managing, or aspiring to, full-time careers. Can Do MS will bring a unique half-day program that will address issues directly affecting the daily lives of the younger community of MS patients, such as employment issues, financial planning, family planning, parenting and dating.

To make all of these exciting programs available to as many people living with MS as we can, we work collaboratively with MS care providers and organizations around the U.S. and Canada. In 2009, Can Do MS formed a collaborative partnership with the National MS Society to align resources and more effectively improve the quality of life of people with MS and their support partners. To broaden our reach, we are also members of the Consortium of MS Centers and the MS Coalition.

Impact Statement

Can Do MS is an innovative provider of lifestyle empowerment programs for people with MS and their support partners. Through these empowerment programs, Can Do MS helps participants move beyond the challenges of their disease and live their best lives. By leveraging a transformative, experiential and multi-disciplinary approach to MS care management, Can Do MS empowers people with the knowledge, skills and confidence necessary to become active co-managers of their health while regaining a sense of control, dignity, hope and freedom in discovering the power to be more than their MS.

Can Do MS offers a range of individualized experiential learning formats, including multi-day workshops, weekend seminars, online resources and peer support programs. Can Do MS's philosophy is to enhance and complement traditional models of care by focusing on the physical, interpersonal, emotional, intellectual and spiritual aspects of living with MS.

Can Do MS's programs impact more than 11,000 people with MS each year through in-person programs, online services and other outreach efforts. In 2014, Can Do MS had 19 programs, in which 11,675 lives were touched. The in-person programs reached 550 participants, and the online programs provided information to 11,100 people living with MS. Just over 230 people from Colorado participated in a Can Do MS program in 2014.

Looking forward, Can Do MS hopes to continue the development of the adaptive recreation program as well as our Young Professional's program for a 2016 launch. This year, Can Do MS also aspires to increase webinar attendance by 40% and our program participants by 20%, compared to 2014.

Background Statement

Since 1984, Can Do Multiple Sclerosis, has been at the forefront of promoting the culture and belief that everyone living with MS has the power to live full lives. Our organization honors the legacy and beliefs of founder Jimmie Heuga, a pioneer in the MS care management field who was diagnosed with MS in 1970. At the time of his diagnosis, and in line with conventional medical wisdom of the time, Jimmie was advised to avoid physical activity to manage his condition and preserve his health. Being a high-caliber athlete and rebelling against his prescribed sedentary lifestyle, Jimmie began developing his own program of exercise, nutrition and mental motivation to improve his physical condition and outlook on life with MS. As Jimmie's condition improved, he not only realized the power of exercise, nutrition, positive thinking and movement to enhance his life with MS, more importantly, he realized that by focusing on what he could do rather than what he could not, he was able to go beyond perceived limitations to live his best life with MS. Today, as researchers continue to seek a cure for MS, Can Do MS's interdisciplinary approach continues to fill a unique gap in the continuum of MS care management.

Board Chair/President Statement

Dear Friends,

As the leading provider of innovative lifestyle empowerment programs for people with MS and their support partners, Can Do Multiple Sclerosis is pleased to share with all of our supporters the many successes we have had in the past year. With exciting new programs and developments in-store, we look forward to an even stronger 2016.

Can Do MS impacts the lives of more than 10,000 people annually through our mission of bringing a multi-disciplinary approach to MS care management. By offering a wide array of in-person programming, which ranges from single to multi-day formats, Can Do MS is able to educate and empower our program participants and their support partners with the lifelong tools they need to experience a better and more fulfilling quality of life. In complement to our in-person programming, we also provide monthly educational webinars and other online resources that bring together a group of specialists to speak on prevalent topics.

Multiple sclerosis is the second most expensive disease to treat, so we are proud to provide all of our programs free of charge. Due to high demand, all of our programs have waiting lists, and only limitations on funding impedes us from serving a larger group of people.

Based on our fiscal responsibility, Can Do MS has received a four star rating from Charity Navigator for six out of the last eight years, and 81 cents of every dollar donated goes directly to program funding. As a valued supporter of Can Do MS, you can have confidence that your donation goes directly to improving the quality of lives of people living with MS and their support partners. Thank you for your generous support to our mission.

With Gratitude,

Richard and Robin Kelly
Can Do MS Board of Directors

Needs Statement

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an unpredictable disease of the central nervous system, in which the insulating, protective covering (myelin sheath) surrounding the nerves in the brain and spinal cord is destroyed or damaged, resulting in interference with the brain's signals to various parts of the body.

• MS is diagnosed most frequently in adults between the ages of 20 and 50.
• The average rate of occurrence is one in every 750 people.
• Approximately 400,000 Americans have MS. 73% of them are women.
• There is no known cause, and no cure.

Symptoms of MS include numbness in the limbs, impaired speech and vision, blindness, and paresis/paralysis. Continued damage to the myelin on the spinal cord will lead to increased weakness (paresis) in the extremities, typically beginning in the legs and moving up to the arms and trunk. As a progressive disease, the damage will continue and cause increasing weakness with paresis ultimately developing into paralysis.

People with MS identify a primary unmet need for more information on: exercise, nutrition, insurance, transportation, and employment. People with MS, and their support partners, need information and strategies for exercise, nutrition, communication, stress management and MS treatment.

For Can Do MS to put on such successful in-person and online programs our needs are below:

To provide the CAN DO® Program to one person plus their support partner, the cost is $11,200.

To provide the TAKE CHARGE™ Program to one person plus their support partner, the cost is $4,400.

To provide the JUMPSTART® Program to one person plus their support partner, the cost is $1,200.

Executive Director Statement

Dear Friends,

Everything we do at Can Do Multiple Sclerosis is driven by one simple belief: you are more than your MS.

Can Do MS is the only resource of its kind in the world. We begin where other health and wellness programs leave off, complementing the traditional models of MS care by providing a more personalized, engaging, and experiential approach to enhanced well-being with multiple sclerosis. Our mission, culture, and programs are all driven by a core belief that everyone has the power to live fully with MS and achieve higher levels of health and well-being through increased self-awareness, acceptance, understanding, and support.

Through our comprehensive, multi-disciplinary programs, Can Do MS provides:

• A hands-on, interdisciplinary approach to MS care management that addresses the whole person, whole life and whole family aspects of living with MS.
• The industry's most comprehensive support partner programs, leveraging a range of engaging, experiential and active-learning programs.
• An individualized approach to teaching and learning, beginning where you are, no matter what stage of MS, and helping you to apply what you've learned to your unique condition and symptoms.
• A deeper and broader approach than other MS educators, encouraging hands-on learning through personal goal setting, group interaction and individualized instruction to help you experience first-hand what is possible with MS.

In 2014, Can Do MS impacted more than 11,000 people living with MS throughout North America and did so in collaboration with other members of the MS community. This year we currently have waiting lists for our upcoming programs, which are provided free of charge. That means fundraising continues to be essential for us to be able to meet the demand. Your gifts provide the critical resources which allow us to sustain our current programming while keeping an eye toward future opportunities to expand and create the innovative programming and online services people with MS and their support partners value. Over 80 percent of the dollars we receive are committed to our programs and services.

We consider every dollar contributed to be important and every donor like you to be the reason why we are able to continue offering our lifestyle empowerment programs to families living with MS free of charge!

I encourage you to visit our website to learn more about our upcoming programs and event happenings in 2014-2015.

Again, thank you for your generosity and support.


Heidi A. Heltzel
President and CEO

"Prior to my MS diagnosis I was an avid downhill skier and absolutely loved the Sierras in the winter. My wife and I were season pass holders at Kirkwood Ski resort in the Lake Tahoe area. In fact, we owned a home about 40 minutes from Kirkwood to be able to get a lot of days on the hill.

I was fearless on skis and loved the thrill of flying down a mountain. With the onset of my MS symptoms, and prior to my actual diagnosis, I started falling and it scared me, so I quit skiing. I thought that being back on the hill was not going to happen for me. Then I found Can Do Multiple Sclerosis and learned the story of Jimmie Heuga. What an incredible story and what an inspiration.

My wife and I attended a Can Do event last July in Oakland and I have to say it changed my life. Now I live I Am, I Can, I Do. Thank you for your support and allowing me to once again feel the thrill of skiing, although not as fast or effortlessly."

- Mark - Adaptive ski participant for 2015 Vertical Express and participant in 2014 TAKE CHARGE program


"A simple card could not convey or express my sincere thank you for allowing me to attend this wonderful program.

It was over whelming and it took time to process and digest. But:


To think that this large group of professionals comes together with their special knowledge and expertise each year for a single purpose, assisting MS'ers with the ability to live their best life is a true expression of love and compassion for others. You've made my life so much better.

Thank you.

God bless you all."
-Cheryl, Florida

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