The High Fives Non-Profit Foundation's Winter Empowerment Fund allows for Highlighted Athletes to continue on a path to recovery and beyond. Below, you will find a new video release from High Fives, in addition to information about a new video contest campaign that will continue to raise awareness for this cause.
Skiing with Steve Wallace – Episode 4
The journey of Steve Wallace continues. Presented by Volkl Skis, Marker Bindings, and Porters Tahoe, in Episode 4 Steve talks about the TRAINS Freestyle Ski and Snowboard Event and the amazing skiing experience during chapter 2 of the Landon McGauley Project.
5 Year Redemption – Roy Tuscany (Invacare Real Life Campaign):
Invacare Real Life Campaign info: Share your Real Life story.
Three stories will be selected to win $3,000 for the creator of the video, with $6,000 donated to their charity of choice. The contest will run from April 4 – June 30, 2011. Winners will be chosen based on total number of views, creativity and inspiration, and decided by an independent panel of judges. Entrants must be at least 16 years of age. The winning videos will be announced by August 1, 2011.
5 Year Redemption – Roy Tuscany (Description): My Real Life (Written by Roy Tuscany)
Traveling via skis is a really great way to travel. I can't imagine a better way to move.
I started skiing when I was ten years old. Even though I grew up in Waterbury, Vermont, I wasn't born into a skiing legacy. I first took to the slopes as part of a Wednesday night after-school program. Skiing seemed like it would be a lot more fun than basketball.
I was the most dangerous man on the mountain. I largely taught myself to ski. That usually involved going to the top of the practice slope and pointing my skis straight downhill. The first time I did that, I made it all the way to the bottom without falling — and then ran into a building. It was the first of many crashes.
I got good enough that I raced for my high school ski team and then the Budweiser Big Air Tour during college.
Skiing was my life, but I promised my parents that I'd get a good education. I always could visually take things apart, so I went to the University of Vermont for my bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and then headed out west to ski.
I moved to Truckee, California and worked for the Sugar Bowl Academy as the assistant free ride coach. Life was great. I stopped competing but was sponsored for everything — clothes, skis, boots, etc. I was also starting to meet photographers and filmmakers.
Then, on April 26, 2006 at 9:05 a.m., everything shifted.
I was at Mammoth Mountain for my second Coaches Retreat. On my first run of the day, I hit a jump I'd hit a hundred times before except — this time — I overshot it. Later, the people who did the accident investigation would tell me I traveled over 130 feet and flew more than 30 feet in the air.
It was not a good crash.
When I landed, I was pretty sure I died. Then I felt a massive rush of air from the oxygen mask they placed on my face. I started to assess the damage. It felt like my hips went through my shoulders. There was blood everywhere.
I had a burst fracture of my T-12 vertebrae and severed the artery in my right thumb. That's why there was so much blood. I was life-flighted to Reno and told I was an incomplete paraplegic. Someone said that being an incomplete is a lot like purgatory — you're stuck somewhere in the middle between a wheelchair and moving easily on two feet.
I knew from the beginning I wanted to walk and ski again. I had health insurance, but there were a lot of things that insurance didn't attend to — alternative medicine treatments, gym memberships, acupuncture, rent, food, adaptive sports equipment and the insurance deductible. The Sugar Bowl community as well as my friends in Tahoe and back home in Vermont raised around $85,000 to help me with those things.
As I sat in the hospital writing thank you cards for the donations, I realized it wasn't enough. I wanted to do more than send people some words on paper and a block of Vermont cheese.
I decided I would start a fund to protect other risk-taking winter athletes who wound up on the wrong side of crashes. They would have to be like-minded people. They would have to think ahead and already have things in place like health insurance. The take-away concept for the fund would be to pay for things that help the athlete's recovery — anything and everything that would help them heal.
The name for the fund — the High Fives Foundation — came from my early hospital experience. Doctors and therapists would come into my room and hide behind their clipboards. It was as if they didn't want to interact with me. So, I made them give me a high five. Hand to hand, skin to skin, forced them to connect. It also made them friends from the get-go.
As for my recovery, the walking came first — although it took until November 2007 before I could do workouts on two flat feet. I tried to mono-ski in January 2008, but my legs were hypersensitive and my whole body would go numb except for my arms. I learned to four-track ski in March 2008 and was on my way back to the slopes.
The High Fives Foundation was up and running in 2009. So far, we've helped 15 athletes — mainly in the Tahoe community. But now, we're traveling to other places. And we are working on other things like how to design and redesign adaptive equipment.
If there were one way to sum up how I live my life and what the foundation is doing, it would be this. We're breaking the boundaries of purgatory.