In 2006, Roy Tuscany broke his back at Mammoth Mountain, leaving him partially paralyzed from the waist down. Inspired by the community support he received after his injury, Tuscany founded the Tahoe-based High Fives Foundation, a non-profit founded in January 2010 that raises money and provides a network of support for individuals who have suffered a life-altering injury. On February 26, High Fives is putting on the seventh annual Squaw Valley Prom, a black tie party (the theme for this year: James Bond) that helps raise money for the non-profit.
In early January, High Fives awarded its first international recipient for the High Fives Winter Empowerment program to Landon McGauley, a 15-year-old from British Columbia who broke his back in a downhill mountain biking accident and is paralyzed from the chest down. McGauley received an all-inclusive trip to Tahoe to take sit-ski lessons at Alpine Meadows. I caught up with Tuscany and McGauley to ask about the trip.
ESPN Freeskiing: You guys just met for the first time. How was the initial meeting?
McGauley: Roy Tuscany is pretty much the sickest guy ever. He has worked so hard to get to the condition he is in now. He broke his back and he's up and walking pretty much perfectly again. Before I even met him I knew he was an extremely motivated and hard working guy. Anyone whose job is to help out people whose lives have been altered by injury automatically gets an A in my book. And when I met him, he was in fact much cooler than I ever imagined.
Tuscany: I was fortunate enough to be the first person to meet Landon at the Reno airport. He has a calm demeanor, beams with positivity, and a dry humor that caught me off guard as we rolled through the airport. Instantly from that point on we started forming a great friendship.
Landon, after three days of lessons on the bunny hill with your coach Bill Bowness, you stepped up to the upper mountain. Tell us about that progress.
McGauley: We spent the whole day skiing on stuff I didn't think I would be able to ski at all. It felt really awesome. On the last run of the day we got up on the top of the mountain and saw the beautiful view of the lake. We skied down the steepest stuff I had skied. It was such a good way to end an amazing week of skiing, but even better yet, my instructor, Bill Bowness, told me that High Fives foundation had not only done all the other great stuff, but they had purchased the sit ski for me to keep. I was so excited.
Roy, it must feel amazing to have made such a difference in Landon's life.
Tuscany: It still has not set in. I still just see it as a fun way to inspire others around me to make this world a better place. We have such a strong community supporting the foundation that I believe it is more the community that supports these athletes than just me.
Looking back, what parts about the trip stand out most?
McGauley: My favorite thing High Fives did for me is that they got me out on the slopes skiing with my family and because of them I also met some of the most amazing people I have ever met that I plan on staying friends with forever.
Tuscany: There are so many and the words will not really express them all. I mean the day the kid left, he came to say goodbye to Adam [Baillargeon, High Five's marketing director] and I, and he ICED both of us. Yes, a 15-year-old kid ICED us.