Battling MS, NJ woman brings ‘adaptive skiing’ nonprofit to East Coast
Branchburg resident Jeanette Iuzzolino hadn't gone skiing for four years after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, until she learned about a nonprofit organization that offered "adaptive ski" courses, to help people living with MS remain active. Now, she's played a central role in bringing that program closer to home.
Can Do MS was founded by the late Jimmie Heuga, bronze medalist in slalom at the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. Heuga was diagnosed with MS in 1970 at the age of 26, at the peak of his skiing career.
When Iuzzolino went to Squaw Valley, Calif. to ski with Can Do, they paid for everything except her registration and plane ticket. That included a hotel, meals, equipment, and training for her and her husband and support partner, Joe.
"I said, 'If you provided this to the East Coast, you'd probably get a lot more people to come, because they can't afford to go to the West Coast all the time,'" Iuzzolino said.
The group took Iuzzolino up on her idea, and subsequently she is the event director for an upcoming installment of Can Do's "Vertical Express," to be held Feb. 20 at Hunter Mountain, NY. The event runs from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. that day, and is one of two East Coast stops the Vertical Express is making this winter. Money raised at these events goes toward lifestyle empowerment programs for those with MS and their support partners.
To help get the word out, Iuzzolino enlisted the help of her friend Diane Pabst, whose experience volunteering for other nonprofits has proven helpful.
"It's exciting to work on an event like this, because you get to see real results," Pabst said.
Iuzzolino, Pabst, and others have been going around to local ski and sports shops, putting up posters. They've received donations from local stores and restaurants. And they have the backing of the New Jersey Metro Chapter of the National MS Society.
"There's nobody out there that hasn't had (MS) touch their life, so everybody can relate to it," Pabst said. "So people are excited to be able to have the opportunity to give something, to help a cause like that."
Registration for the Feb. 20 Vertical Express at Hunter Mountain is $25, open to skiers of all ages and abilities. To find out more, visit mscando.org/verticalexpress or call 1-888-Do-It-4-MS.
Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's evening news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015, email email@example.com, and listen for his live reports Monday through Thursday nights between 6:30 and 11 p.m.