An interview with High Fives Foundation founder, Roy Tuscany
Interview by Jeremy Lux, article written by Eric Gasa
Roy Tuscany is a man propelled by his own will to live life to the fullest. Struck by hardship, but fueled by his love of life and adventure, there is very little that can keep Tuscany down. That especially includes a death defying 100 foot jump, which he overshot by 30 feet while skiing in 2006 that left him paralyzed from the waist down.
The injury caused burst fractures in 12 vertebrae, bone shrapnel to his spinal cord, and after countless surgeries, two steel rods, and later 16 screws in his back. As Tuscany recovered in his hospital bed all may have seemed lost. He was a burgeoning professional skier with mounting sponsorships when it all disappeared in an instant along with the use of his legs. Others may have started planning their surrender during times like this, but Tuscany was different; he endured, he was planning his comeback while sitting in the deepest valley of his life.
Tuscany’s journey to become whole again would not only transform his own life, but the lives of hundreds of other disabled persons in ways he would never imagine. His recovery started with a simple high five; an odd way to greet a life-threatening injury, but it became the basis of his nonprofit, the High Fives Foundation, a program that sponsors and serves disabled athletes everywhere. In the latest episode of the Life in Motion podcast, Jeremy Lux discusses Roy’s inspiring story, his foundation, and the awesome power of human resilience.
If there are two people who Tuscany notes as his greatest inspirations, it’s certainly his parents who he describes as “two super educated, individuals who gave me the ability to live the best life possible.” This also included enrollment in afterschool ski programs that would put him towards the path of athletic success.
After college, Tuscany left his native Vermont behind for Lake Tahoe, California to pursue his dream to become a professional skier. Along the way he garnered some sponsorships after competing in the Budweiser Tour and had even gotten paid to do some video shoots.
“I never wanted to be rich you know,” Tuscany admits, “I just wanted to make enough to experience life the way I wanted. As you may know I was well on my way, but unfortunately, I had a little bit of a mishap that changed the entire trajectory of my life.”
That “mishap” was the fated 100-foot jump that Tuscany overshot by 30 feet and landed him in a hospital. Events like this can be devastating to most people, especially athletes, but Tuscany was just built differently.
“I knew right then and there that I had to make a decision. Like don't be sour, figure out how these negatives can be turned into a positive. And that's something that I took right from that instantaneous point was like there's no reason to be down. You did this to yourself. But what we can do is we can show up with the best attitude and effort possible.”
After jumping 130 feet and losing his professional career, Tuscany honestly just picked himself up, dusted himself off, and went to pursue greener pastures. The way he sees it, the loss of his mobility was simply one door closing and another one opening. Behind said door was the unknown, but it certainly held Tuscany’s future and overall destiny in this world.
There to help him every step along the way was the skiing community and other disabled athletes. No matter where this new journey took him, Tuscany simply radiated optimistic energy. Hence is how he got the name of his foundation.
“When the doctor gave me his report of my injuries he looked honestly scared for me,” Tuscany shares, “So I put my hand up to say like, ‘Yeah dude, way to go man. Let’s slap some hands here.’ He had no idea what I was asking for so I had to explain to him ‘Hey, just slap my hand. I’m going to be okay.’ And that was the pivotal moment that transformed how I communicated with people during my recovery.”
“Yeah that makes sense,” Lux says, “It’s kind of just natural extension of your attitude. If you’re giving out high fives you usually got a big smile on your face.”
“Exactly!” Tuscany agrees, “It’s pretty hard to give a high five and not have a positive exchange.”
From there started the entire mantra of Tuscany’s High Fives Foundation. A network of positive folks dedicated to helping disabled athletes and even veterans get back to living their lives to the fullest. In its 11 years, the foundation has helped over 350 people from all over North America, has raised millions in funding for rehab and therapy, and aims to prevent life-changing sports injuries as well. Or as Tuscany likens it, an organization that is there to catch you when you’re falling and help you get back up again.
Over a decade after the injury that changed his life, Tuscany is still the same thrill seeker he’s always been. Thanks to ingenious inventions like the adaptive surfboard and e-bike, Tuscany can hit the waves and the trails with ease.
Though he was destined to become a professional skier, the path that life has put Tuscany on is just as virtuous and exciting, touching countless lives along the way. But even despite all the progress his foundation has done, Tuscany is still humble and modest. He likens his lifelong work of helping others as simply a way to pay it forward.
“Every day you’re given the gift of choosing to wake up and provide the most positive attitude and valiant effort,” Tuscany says, “Things are going to happen in your life and its really up to you to make that decision for yourself and not for anybody else.”
It’s a piece of advice that Tuscany believes in wholeheartedly. Life is a struggle but for Roy Tuscany he takes it one step at a time.
For more info on the High Fives Foundation checkout their website www.highfivesfoundation.org as well as their socials on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Roy Tuscany’s incredible story is honestly too great to fit into one article. For the full scoop on the High Fives Foundation as well as some more inspiring stories from Roy and fellow athletes, check out the full interview with Jeremy Lux on the Life in Motion podcast on Apple Podcast and Spotify.