‘High Five’ takes on new meaning | SierraSun.com

‘High Five’ takes on new meaning

Sylas Wright
Sierra Sun

Courtesy of Greg Martin/www.gpmartinphoto.comThe High Fives Nonprofit Foundation, led by Roy Tuscany, James Preston and Mat Jackson, gather with some of their closest friends atop Donner Summit this past week. From left to right, the group includes Natalie White, Preston, Tuscany, Jackson, KC Wry and Ben Paciotti. High Fives is holding a fundraising park contest at Sugar Bowl on April 18 and a kick-off party at Pastime on Tuesday, April 14.

Laid up in a hospital a crippled mess, Roy Tuscany had plenty of time to think ” mainly about the horrific ski crash that put him there, paralyzed from his waist down, and the repercussions of such a personal tragedy.

Would the Truckee skier ever walk again? Ski again?

There was no way to be sure.

But even then, before soaking in the full outpouring of support from friends, family and community, his mind grappled with ideas of how to give back. People had lent a huge helping hand in his time of need, and Tuscany wanted to return the favor.

Three years later, he’s returning the favor.

With the help of friends James Preston and Mat Jackson, Tuscany, 27, formed the High Fives Nonprofit Foundation in an effort to raise money for people who are pursuing skiing and have suffered a life-altering injury.

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“If somebody in the area gets hurt, I want them to have the same support I had,” said Tuscany, who’s now walking under his own power, even skiing on occasion, after the April 29, 2006 accident. “I feel like it’s my way to give back to everyone who gave to me, because I could never pay back what was given to me.”

Tuscany, a former Sugar Bowl Freeride Team coach and pro-level skier, was training at Mammoth Mountain the day of his accident. He miscalculated his speed off a 70-foot step-up table, launching 121 feet ” about 20 feet past the landing ” before exploding into the flats from 30 feet in the air.

“It felt like I went through my body, like my legs went through my body ” if that makes sense,” Tuscany told the Sierra Sun in a 2008 interview. “The pain is something I can’t explain to anyone. I opened my eyes, saw blood and instantly went into shock because of the amount of pain I was feeling.”

And for good reason, as Tuscany had suffered a burst fracture that sent his T12 vertebrate into his spine, compromising it by 40 percent. He compared the spine injury to a soup can denting in on the sides. After being flown to Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno, a back specialist stabilized Tuscany’s spine by inserting eight screws, two plates and two 9 1/2-inch rods. The doc sewed him up with 48 staples, leaving a 13 1/2-inch scar.

His recovery, while grueling, was nothing short of miraculous. By March 25, 2008, Tuscany was back on skis, using adaptive poles that allowed him to turn with the strength of his upper body. With his lower limbs far from 100 percent, it wasn’t a pretty sight ” still isn’t, he said.

“I was the most dangerous person on the mountain,” Tuscany said, describing his few outings on the snow last season. “Now I’m the fifth most dangerous person on the mountain.”

After everything Tuscany’s been through, the notion spawned from his hospital room to give back to the community is finally coming to fruition.

With his High Fives Foundation recently recognized as a nonprofit organization, Tuscany and crew are hosting a “kick-off party” at Truckee’s Pastime Club on Tuesday starting at 8 p.m. A number of local companies have donated swag for a raffle, while ladies receive special prizes. Cover charge is $5, and entertainment includes live spinning from three DJs ” DJ OneTruest, King of Hearts and the Silver Boombox Thief.

The party is a kick-off for TRAINS, a fundraising slopestyle ski contest to be held in Sugar Bowl’s Switching Yard Terrain Park on Saturday, April 18.

“Instead of taking money, I’d rather put on an event and party and promote the foundation. I’m not greedy. I want kids to be able to make it in the skiing industry, and this is my way of helping,” Tuscany said.

The High Fives Foundation is just getting started with its fundraising goals. The plan is to build funds until Jan. 1, 2010, when they will begin accepting applications from those in need.

For now, however, Tuscany has TRAINS on his mind. Call it a sequel to last year’s Charitysmith High Fives 540 contest at Sugar Bowl, which he and his friends put on to celebrate his return to the slopes.

About the high fives, the friendly exchange holds deeper meaning for Tuscany.

“I would high five all my physical therapists and friends (during rehabilitation), and then it kind of just turned into who I am now,” he said last year … “It’s a train of positivity between two people. You get their positivity, and they get yours back.”

Tuscany anticipates this year’s High Five event blowing away the one he put on a year ago, as he assembled an all-star cast of 25 skiers to compete in the jam-format contest.

Sugar Bowl Terrain Park Manager J.P. Martin is sculpting the park, Full Belly Deli is donating a portable cooker (for a chicken-wing-eating contest), Mountain Forge will be on hand to perform on-site branding for jib features and trophies, Charitysmith will award cash prizes, and Praxis Skis will give away a pair of their skis.

And that just scratches the surface, Tuscany said.

You’ll have to be there to take it all in ” but not before attending the kick-off party.