Roy Tuscany, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the High Fives Foundation, had dreams of being a professional free skier. After graduating from the University of Vermont with a degree in mechanical engineering, he headed out west to pursue that dream. In 2006, Roy suffered a life-altering injury while skiing that left him paralyzed from the waist down. Forty-three days after Roy entered the hospital as a paraplegic, he walked out. His determination to walk again was the catalyst for the creation of the High Fives Foundation.
Roy turned the financial and community support of his own recovery into a “pay-it-forward’ adventure. In April 2008, Roy put on his first event, called High Fives, a best 540 contest at Sugar Bowl (today the event is known as Trains). The idea was conceived during a backyard brainstorming session. Following the success of the event, Tuscany launched the High Fives Non-Profit, the name deriving from his hand slapping hospital antics and the high fives thrown at the event.
On January 19, 2009, the High Fives Foundation became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. The High Fives Foundation not only funds recovery for athletes with spinal cord injuries, but also aims to provide preventative information to young athletes. Through a program called B.A.S.I.C.S. (Being Aware Safe In Critical Situations) it aims to “promote smart decision making in the mountains.” B.A.S.I.C.S. creates a documentary every year focusing on one aspect of mountain safety and streams it for free online while also touring it around the country, showing it in schools and to professionals in the industry.
In 2011, Roy was the recipient of the “Spirit Inspires” Award from Disabled Sports USA and he once held the world record for the most high-fives in a 24-hour period. Roy has relearned how to walk, ski, and surf, which is Roy’s newest thrill-seeking activity. He currently lives in Reno, Nevada with his wife, Alana Nichols, and son, Gunnar, and enjoys finding fun in everything he does.
Interviewed by our Different & Able President and Founder, Alexandra Nicklas, Roy opens up about his life changing incident, the power of being vulnerable, how your biggest enemy could be looking at you in the mirror, and why it is important to celebrate your moments. Roy also discusses the High Fives Foundation and how it is cultivated on inclusiveness. Roy’s secret to connecting with others, with or without a difference, is clear; it is the simple act of a high five.