In my last column, I wrote about losing two ski friends and now I’ll remind you how tragedies like those can be turned into wonderful causes. High Fives and the Shane McConkey foundations are charities that were both born out of tremendous loss.
High Fives Foundation
High Fives Foundation founder Roy Tuscany was an up-and-coming pro skier who became paralyzed on a terrain park jump landing that went bad at Mammoth Mountain. He turned his moment of despair into a thriving nonprofit that helps disabled athletes like himself and disabled veterans from the military regain strength or acquire new skills in fun, outdoor activities.
In 2009, Roy asked me to come to Sugar Bowl to help promote his new nonprofit at the Trains jump event and I was happy to help — and even happier to hit the beautiful, massive jumps (built by J.P. Martin) with the pros. Roy’s first events were simple with a ski jump, music, beers, branded T-shirts. Then 12 years later it become California’s Non-Profit of the Year and gave almost $2 million in disbursements in 2021. He’s built the C.R. Johnson Healing Center, started the injury-prevention program B.A.S.I.C.S., sponsored ski-a-thons, golf tourneys, films and even a bocce ball tournament.
Roy has overcome his physical obstacles to become a skier again and is able to ski and surf with the numerous athletes and veterans that he supports while never forgetting to give a high five, that small act being his first step on the road to recovery in the hospital back in 2006. A popular Tahoe High Fives Foundation event is the Skinny Ski-a-thon held during The Mothership Classic on March 26 (find details in this edition). | highfivesfoundation.org
Shane McConkey Foundation
In March 2009, I was on top of the world as a forerunner for the U.S. Freestyle National Championships in Halfpipe. After a great day of ski training, my world came crashing down when I learned my friend and mentor Shane McConkey had died in a ski cliff accident involving a BASE jump earlier that day. Shane coached me by e-mail in my first big-mountain event; he was there to be my beacon racing the first snowblade Chinese Downhills at Palisades Tahoe and gracious to give me interviews when I wanted to write about his over-the-top exploits.
Shane was such an inspiration and savior to many; from those he gave sanction in performing the craziest stunts on Earth to saving the then-dying sport of skiing by inventing the wide ski. Every racing and freeride program in this country has Shane to thank for the continuation and growth of their sport by bringing skiing to the masses.
In 2011 his wife, Sherry, turned their tragic loss into a foundation to help others and keep the memory of Shane alive forever. The nonprofit Shane McConkey Foundation gives monetary support to other nonprofits and schools and has provided more than a $500,000 to dozens of benefactors locally and nationwide.
Shane was well known for his ski skills along with an amazing sense of humor, so perhaps the foundation’s flagship event, International Snowblade Day on March 25 at Palisades Tahoe this year will help jog your creative mind for ecological solutions while having fun on your snowblades (details in this edition). | shanemcconkey.org