Vail Valley Voices: Awakening of Can Do potential | VailDaily.com

Vail Valley Voices: Awakening of Can Do potential

Scott Robinson
Vail, CO, Colorado

This May, Can Do Multiple Sclerosis embarked upon the 28th year in offering their flagship four-day Can Do program in Vail.

We are pleased to share highlights of our interview with Dr. Jon Feeney, who was an integral part in the creation and execution of the first Can Do program in 1984.

Our Can Do program empowers people with MS and their support partners to transform and improve their quality of life.

A mutual friend introduced Dr. Feeney and Jimmie Heuga at the American Ski Classic in Vail, and the rest is history.

“Jimmie told me about his story that he had MS and wanted to start a center about wellness with MS. I told him that I was a local physician interested in wellness and to give me a call whenever he needed my help.”

During the summer of ’84, Dr. Feeney and Jimmie worked together to create a tailored exercise program. Since every case of MS is different, they emphasized that this exercise program must be modified to the fit specific needs of each participant.

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By integrating Dr. Feeney’s medical expertise with Jimmie’s perspective as an Olympic athlete who was living with MS, they created the first Can Do program in September 1984 in Vail.

In its early stages, the Can Do program focused primarily on exercise. Over the years, however, exercise has become just one part of this multi-disciplinary program.

“What sets this program apart from any other MS program is its multi-disciplinary approach. We look at the whole person, including their physical health, emotional state, family, intellect, and spiritual beliefs. We wanted people to change their priorities. Instead of looking at what they could not do, we wanted them to focus on what they could do.”

Program participants receive one-on-one consultations with an array of medical professionals, including: neurologists, psychologists, urologist, physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists, to name just a few.

All of our medical experts agree that their expertise is just one element of a larger plan to empower people living with MS to lead fuller lives. By all accounts, it takes a unique person to become a Can Do MS programs consultant.

“They need to be uniquely skilled, dedicated to the participant, intellectual, and fun. Most importantly, they must be able to check their egos at the door.”

Although our programs consultants are a large part of what makes the Can Do program successful, the camaraderie among program participants is just as important.

In the days leading up to the four-day program, participants go through a wave of anxiety. But this anxiety is put to ease when they realize that others living with MS are feeling a similar anxiety.

When Can Do program alumni are asked about what helped them the most at our four-day program, we usually get the same answer: “I am not alone.” They believe that once you attend a Can Do Program, you become part of a family that loves unconditionally and cares for one other. That sense of family is what helps program alumni stay motivated to keep a “Can Do attitude” year after year.

Just like a well-engineered machine, when all aspects of the Can Do program are merged, participants often have a life-changing experience in four days.

As a close friend of Jimmie Heuga, Dr. Feeney understands Jimmie’s philosophy fully and carries that with him at every Can Do program.

“Jimmie had a unique perspective of what made him feel better and an amazing ability to pass on his positive, can-do attitude on to others participating in the program.”

A national nonprofit organization based in Edwards, Can Do Multiple Sclerosis is a provider of lifestyle empowerment programs that empower people with MS and their support partners to transform and improve their quality of life. For more information, visit the organization’s website at http://www.mscando.org or call 800-367-3101.

Scott Robinson is the marketing coordinator for Can Do Mulitiple Sclerosis. He can be reached at srobinson@mscando.org.