9 | High Fives Foundation’s Roy Tuscany: Not the Same, But Still Awesome

The day after Roy Tuscany burst-fractured his T12 vertebrae in a skiing accident, the doctor who performed the eight-hour emergency operation that stabilized his spine came to his hospital room. Roy, eager to show appreciation, put his hand up to to give the surgeon a high-five. After a few awkward moments, the physician reciprocated—and Roy realized what a powerful, positive moment of connection he’d created.

In the aftermath of his accident, Roy also found another source of positivity—the support of his family, friends and community. The Sugar Bowl Academy, the school for competitive skiers where he’d been teaching, started a fund that enabled him to focus on healing without worrying about finances.

As Roy moved through recovery, he decided to repay this kindness by starting an organization that would offer the same gift to other injured athletes. Fittingly, he named it after the gesture of goodwill he’d since shared with nearly all his medical professionals. Now, more than 10 years later, the High Fives Foundation has disbursed more than $3 million in grants to 237 athletes from 32 states.

Roy joined us today to discuss:

  • How he first fell in love with skiing and how it became a part of what he calls his “ethos”: “The most beautiful way to travel is sliding on snow”
  • How his accident happened, and how he nearly immediately made the decision to move forward with a new life instead of focusing on what he had lost
  • The significance of the support he received as he recovered
  • How integral adaptive sports were to his healing process—and how learning to ski again convinced him of the need for the High Fives Foundation, to give others access to the same resources
  • What the organization does to provide connections and positivity to people facing difficult challenges: “When we can create community through sport, we are creating the strongest community possible”
  • How High Fives works to create independent athletes—people who have the tools and knowledge to participate in their sport on their own terms and schedule
  • The definition of athlete, per the High Fives Foundation: “anyone with a goal,” whether that’s skiing with family again or returning to high levels of competition
  • Athletes who exemplify the organization’s mission, including Olympic ski jumper Nick Fairall and viral sit-ski sensation Trevor Kennison
  • The positive changes that have occurred in his own life thanks to connecting with athletes like these
  • His primary messages for others facing life-altering injuries: Find examples of positivity, set goals with your brain, use your heart to drive you toward them, and above all remember: “It’ll never be the same, but it will be awesome”

Resources/links we mention:

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