A letter from an Athlete | Candy Dungan

A letter from an Athlete | Candy Dungan

Letters From an Athlete is a series that focuses on showcasing some of our Athletes, who are proud to represent and be supported by High Fives. It’s also a chance for us to show off how appreciative the Foundation is to continue to support these individuals as they chase dreams, complete goals, and inspire others.

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High Fives is honored to be associated with Candy Dungan, seeing Candy set goals and put her mind to completing them is nothing less than incredible.

The young Colorado resident was an avid and extremely talented downhill street skateboarder, who unfortunately misjudged a corner at high speed on her skateboard damaging her spinal cord.

After learning of her paralysis, Dungan took no time to feel sorry for herself, she instead looked forward to the future and how she was going to continue to live life the way that she wanted to.

Dungan’s infectious positive attitude and dedication has taken her so far since her injury. We look forward to see how she will continue to represent the Foundation by being the best version of herself.

A Letter From Candy

On March 28, 2018, I did the same thing I did almost every morning… wake up at the crack of dawn to downhill skateboard mountain passes with my friends. On my first run, I misjudged an incredibly misleading and unforgiving corner. I should have scrubbed some speed before the corner to make it through safely. However, I did nothing of the sort. By the time I realized my mistake, it was too late. My back hit a girthy guardrail post at 40+ mph; instantly paralyzing me from the waist down. I continued to roll through the guardrail posts and down a cliff until I found a branch that I could grab onto in order to stop my fall. It took about 30 minutes for anyone to find me and begin the rescue process. I was wearing a full-face helmet, spine protector, knee pads, and slide gloves for protective gear. I suffered a T11 fracture and a complete spinal cord injury. I couldn’t move or feel anything below my belly button. The first doctor I saw when reaching the hospital informed me that I would never walk again. In fact, the only medical professional who suggested I may have any chance of walking again was my surgeon when he said, “maybe there’s a 3% chance.”


The first time High Fives helped me, it was the simple gift of hope. High Fives members and staff were the first people from the SCI community to tell me anything is possible. Then, when I ran out of insurance money for PT, they awarded me a grant so that I may pay for Physical Therapy and Neurogenesis Acupuncture to chase my dream of walking and skateboarding again. Within nine months of my injury, I could walk independently with ankle braces and a walker for about 20 feet. Another time High Fives helped me was when I became extremely bored with life. Other than for PT and Acupuncture, I didn’t leave the house much. I felt like I wasn’t capable and there weren’t options. I reached out to the High Fives community, and they showed me otherwise! Fellow athletes took me under their wing, and Justin Pines, specifically, began throwing meet-up events for community members to meet the rest of their local High Fives community for support and friendship. 


Now, with help from High Fives, I’ve even rejoined my downhill skateboard community and events – on an adaptive streetluge! I’ve also joined the Board of Directors for the World Circuit of Downhill Skateboarding and Streetluge with a goal to add adaptive racing and accessibility to the World Circuit of events. High Fives continues to help me progress in my physical recovery by funding and supporting my Physical Therapy and Neurogenesis Acupuncture. I am now working on walking with crutches in PT, I have movement in all of my muscles above the knees, and I can feel sensations just about everywhere on my body. 


If I had to say in one sentence what High Fives has done for me, I would say, “High Fives helped me find me again; both my body and my spirit.” These are the paths that I’m still traversing, but I feel more adventurous knowing that I have the support of the High Fives community, including you! Thank you for giving me hope, confidence, friends, safety, opportunities, and a lust for life after my injury. Thank you for standing with me as I chase dreams, both for myself and my communities. Thank you for helping the people who came before me, so that they can continue passing on support and guidance. And, thank you for choosing to invest in people; for every person who is happier makes the world a happier place. 


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