A letter from an Athlete | Matt Leonard
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.
A Letter From an Athlete
HIGH FIVES IS HONORED TO HAVE Matt Leonard ON OUR TEAM OF ATHLETES, SEEING matt’S HARD WORK AND DETERMINATION PAY OFF IN THE FORM OF organizing High Fives Hangout and skiing all over the states pushing himself.
The Bay Area local WAS ALWAYS AN AVID AND EXTREMELY TALENTED skier, WHO UNFORTUNATELY TOOK A HARD FALL WHILE skiing WITH FRIENDS, DAMAGING HIS SPINAL CORD. THIS CHANGED THE FORM OF the ski HE RODE BUT IT DID NOT DIMINISHED HIS LOVE FOR THE SPORT. Matt spent most of the winter travelling around California skiing at different ski hills.
Leonard’S INFECTIOUS POSITIVE ATTITUDE AND DEDICATION HAS TAKEN HIM SO FAR SINCE HIS INJURY. WE LOOK FORWARD TO SEE HOW HE WILL CONTINUE TO REPRESENT THE FOUNDATION BY BEING THE BEST VERSION OF HIMSELF.
A Letter From Matt
My name is Matt Leonard. On February 27th, 2015 my life changed forever. I was skiing at Alpine Meadows, CA with my good friend Chris. It was just another day, a storm was about to blow in and we were taking some warm-up laps under the Summit chairlift. As an expert skier, I still can’t really explain what happened next. I caught an edge, lost a ski and tried to hang on and save it by balancing on one leg. I couldn’t. The next thing I remember, I was lying in the well of lift tower 9, staring up as the chairs and people rattled by above me. It was a surreal few seconds of peace before I realized I couldn’t get up.
Thanks to the amazing help of my friend Chris, another bystander, and the heroes of ski patrol, I was taken off the mountain and driven to Reno for emergency spinal surgery. I had broken my back, collapsing my T4 vertebrae and severed my spinal cord.
As anyone with knowledge of a Spinal Cord Injury knows, the next few days, weeks and months were incredibly hard. The High Fives Foundation knows this more than anyone. Sure enough, Roy Tuscany and Steve Wallace from High Fives Foundation walked into my ICU room the following day. They gave me and my family some encouragement, lots of advice about rehab at Craig Hospital and some High Fives swag, and told me they were there to help. What an understatement.
High Fives is a lot of things to a lot of people. For me, it’s a connection and a community that would otherwise be missing from my life. When I learned I was paralyzed, they were able to connect me to a community of people who knew my experience and my pain. People who know how hard it is, how it does get better, and how to navigate this new normal and still have some fun doing it.
During my time at rehab, they connected me to other High Fives athletes at Craig Hospital who were also recovering from Spinal Cord Injuries. The biggest benefit of working with High Fives though my recovery, was introducing me to fellow High Fives athlete Bond Camp. Bond was injured skiing almost exactly two months before me. He. He was my same age, with the same injury level. Being able to see him and his progress gave me a window two months into my future. It gave me tangible goals to which to aspire, it also gave me a friend to talk to, and hope. Even now I can ask him (and other High Fives athletes) for advice on how to do something, or what adaptive gear to get, and I know I can trust their opinion . Living with a Spinal Cord Injury is full of creative problem solving and having a helpful network is invaluable.
On top of all that, this community also does A TON of rad stuff. They’ve gotten me back on the mountain to start monoskiing, helped with physical therapy costs, taken me to Montana to fly fish, and to Santa Cruz to mountain bike, they even helped me get an adaptive Kayak. It’s ridiculous, and I have nothing but love for them.
It’s been almost five years since my injury, and don’t get me wrong, there’s still struggle ,pain, and grief. Recovery is a long and ongoing process. However, my story is far from over, and with the High Fives Foundation on my side I can’t wait to see what’s next.