The High Fives Foundation is a nonprofit in Truckee that supports the dreams of mountain action sports athletes by raising injury prevention awareness while providing resources and inspiration to those who suffer a life-altering injury.
The organization was created in 2009 by Roy Tuscany as a way to pay-it-forward. In 2006, Tuscany was aspiring to become a professional skier. On an April morning, Roy hit a jump at Mammoth Mountain and overshot by 60 feet. The crash resulted in a spinal cord injury, devastating his dreams, and forcing him to start over from the ground up. With an outpouring of support from mountain communities in Nevada, California and Vermont, Tuscany was donated enough funding to pay for crucial therapies that taught him to walk again, and eventually ski.
When Roy Tuscany was at a point where he believed his life was back on track, he saw an opportunity in replicating his recovery process. “I knew that I could bolster this kind of support for other people in my situation,” Tuscany said.
So the High Fives Foundation was created, using raffles and fundraising parties in local establishments to raise enough money to pay for healing services for a mountain action sports athlete recovering from a spinal cord injury.
The first official High Fives Athlete was Steve Wallace. Like Roy, the Foundation helped Wallace to the point where he was skiing again, and Steve caught the bug for philanthropy, too. In between recovery sessions, Wallace volunteered for the organization, mailing handwritten thank you letters and helping with office organizations.
“I donated a lot of time, almost a year, until the organization grew to a point where they could hire me, and I’ve been here ever since.” Steve now oversees all program services of the Foundation and is always one of the first points of contact for injured athletes and their families.
Roy Tuscany’s initial goal was to help one athlete, but that dream was easily exceeded. The Foundation has an organization grant application where injured athletes can demonstrate their need and apply for funding for therapies, training, equipment and adaptive modifications to houses or vehicles.
This program, known as the Empowerment Program, is the largest of the program and also requires the most funding. Fundraising is one of Roy Tuscany’s specialties. Since the beginning, he has developed innovative fundraising platforms, including ski-a-thons, bocce ball tournaments and golf tournaments. They played into the fun loving side of the ski community, and the ski community, as it turns out, really cares for one another. Tuscany’s networking in the industry also helped shape a growth path, creating partnerships with massive ski brands that donated product, gear, and soon lots of funding.
Sadly, in 2010, professional skier and friend of Roy Tuscany, CR Johnson passed away while skiing. The trust created by his family helped establish the CR Johnson Healing Center, a 2,800 sq/ft work out facility located at the office of the High Fives Foundation. The center is open seven days a week and offers healing services such as personal training, physical therapy, acupuncture, massage, and Pilates. It houses some specialized technology that can help an athlete walk again, including a bicycle that uses electrical stimulation for paralyzed people to pedal. “What’s most important about the Healing Center is that any athlete with a major injury who is motivated to recover can train here for free,” said Tuscany. “This factor has attracted athletes from across the country to move here permanently or temporarily.”
Athletes often begin their therapies at advanced professional services like SpineNevada Minimally Invasive Spinal Institute, located down the road from High Fives in Reno, Nevada. Dr. James Lynch, a fellowship-trained neurosurgeon and founder of SpineNevada, is the Medical Director for High Fives Foundation. SpineNevada physical therapists, Thais Mollet, PT, DPT and Torrey Schweickert, PT, MSPT, provide rehabilitation services to HFF athletes. After recovering to a point, athletes are encouraged to continue advancing their recovery with sessions at the CR Johnson Healing Center.
In 2016, SpineNevada recognized and fulfilled a need for additional equipment at the CR Johnson Healing Center. The new FreeMotion equipment displays the SpineNevada logo.
“Healing from a spinal cord or brain injury is an uphill battle for your whole life,” said Steve Wallace. “It’s not something you can just turn on and turn off. It’s not like the New Years resolution fitness club memberships that get left behind. You have to keep your momentum.”
Since 2009, the High Fives Foundation has given grant funding to 126 athletes from 26 states across the country. They’ve developed program services for injured veterans and a series of documentaries that have reached hundreds of thousands of skiers and snowboarders to teach them of the inherent risks and dangers of mountain action sports. They’ve created dozens of camps and experiences to push the boundaries of what’s possible for athletes after a life-altering injury. Biggest of all, the High Fives Foundation has built on the sense of empathy and philanthropy throughout mountain towns across North America.
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