Congratulations on your success with High Fives. You do such amazing work helping athletes suffering from Spinal Cord Injuries. You yourself suffered an SCI during your skiing career. How did you overcome this setback? You’re back to skiing, surfing, biking in the mecca of Tahoe. How long did it take you to recover?
In 2006, I overshot a jump on my skis and the resultant impact burst fractured by T-12 vertabrae into my spine. Leaving me paralyzed from the waist down, however I only did an incomplete injury to my spinal cord. Meaning, I had the potential to regain feeling and motor skills below my injury level. I was super lucky, as the communities of Lake Tahoe and Vermont rallied around me and raised a substantial amount of money for my recovery (which is also how I got the format to create High Fives Foundation) and allowed me to focus on rehab for two straight years. After two years of intense physical therapy, I started to reintroduce sports into my life through adaptive adaptations for skiing, surfing and biking. My passion for skiing has now be translated into a major passion for surfing.
What inspired you to create High Fives?
I needed to pay-it-forward, for all the people that supported my efforts in recovery. It was not enough for me to write thank you cards and updates to the donors, so I wanted to honor their contributions by creating a Foundation that would help out others that happened to fall into the same shoes as me.
High Fives is a great name. Why did you choose it for your organization?
My original doctor, was really socially awkward, so I made him give me a High Five the first time I met him and from there, I just started to introduce myself to my nurses, therapists, doctors, etc. with a the simple gesture of a High Five. Remember, the secret to a perfect High Five is to always look at the elbow.
Tell us about the types of athletes you assist. How many have you helped so far? What are some of the programs that they can participate in?
We support the recoveries of athletes that sustain life-altering injuries in mountain action sports, we classify an athlete as anyone with a goal in a mountain sport, so it is not just professional athletes but also recreational athletes. We have helped 91 athletes from 20 states across the country. We support the dreams of these athletes through our Empowerment Fund and we also host adaptive action sports camps throughout the year.
How does the CR Johnson Healing Center differ from other facilities?
We have created a community of healing and positivity. It doesn’t have the feeling of a medical facility but more like a hangout spot for folks to recover in a no-question environment. Everyone is here to help and support the efforts of an individuals recovery.
Originally, the foundation was created to help and inspire injured athletes. How did you move on to education for injury prevention?
Working with JT Holmes, who explains it best here – That’s just it I’m not into regulating bodies. I’m not into limiting progression and having some kind of body establishing guide-lines and saying, “You can’t do this until you’ve completed a per-requisite skill evaluation.” That’s why I started my program with the High Fives Foundation. The B.A.S.I.C.S.program acronym stands for, Being, Aware, Safe, In, Critical, Situations. Frankly we just want to get people to use their heads at least just a little bit. To understand how much training happens behind the scenes. You can go on the news feeds on the internet and see amazing footage of a quadruple corked flip on ski’s now. Or people flying their wingsuits really low to the ground. In every single sport the bar is rising higher and higher and our mission at B.A.S.I.C.S. is to show people what the pre-requisite skills are. We show an Olympic gold medal freestyle skier doing simple flips into a swimming pool. Or a snowboarder talking about avalanches and helmets. We then go out to schools coast to coast and show the videos. We made one called, “Helmets Are Cool.” The latest video is called, “Choices.” It’s all about making smart decisions. We all unfortunately know it’s very important.
B.A.S.I.C.S. is designed to educate athletes into making better decisions. What does B.A.S.I.C.S. stand for? What is its goal?
Be Aware Safe In Critical Situations – (Being Aware Safe In Critical Situations) – A program service of the High Fives Foundation designed to promote safety and awareness through world-class fundamentals coaching of action sports athletes and through educational documentaries that help promote critical thinking to winter sports enthusiasts of all ages.
How can kids make better decisions when participating in mountain sports? Is there one critical piece of advice you would give them?
Two things; Find a mentor and always wear a helmet, cause #helmetsarecool
What do you do to recover after a long day of rehab or skiing?
STRETCH & wear Soxxy compression sox!
Your organization is constantly evolving and Soxxy is excited to be a part of that. What new initiatives do you have for 2016?
In 2016, we have some big plans and goals. These are our five major goals
- 1. Run a successful new program called “Military to the Mountains” that will bring 10 veterans to Squaw Valley to relearn to ski / snowboard
- 2. Host 4 successful ski camps with the US Paralympics Program across the country to find the next 8 best skiers
- 3. Expand to the East Coast with an official office in Vermont
- 4. Reach 5,000 visits at the CR Johnson Healing Center in 2016
- 5. Get Roy on the show Ellen
We’re excited to launch the High Fives branded compression Soxxy. What’s your plan for distribution?
Through our athletes, we have a loud voice and reach through the athletes we support.
We are working in partnership with your Doctors at Spine Nevada – they want to give Soxxys to all of their patients at risk for DVT and other vascular issues. What are the benefits you and your team have experienced as a result of wearing Soxxys inflight and for recovery?
My benefits have been increased blood flow and overall muscle control in my legs. They make my legs feel as if they have some extra power in them!