If someone is sitting next to you on an airplane asks what you do for work, what do you tell them?
I tell them that I run a non-profit, and I usually do that in a way that I don’t tell them what it is, because I always want them to ask. That allows me to engage with them. It usually ends up being a really cool conversation. So, by the time I’m done, I tell them that I founded non-profit and that I’m currently the executive director. I usually will tell them our mission—to raise money and awareness for athletes that suffer life-altering injuries while pursuing a dream in winter sports. That will lead to ‘Oh, how’d you get into that,’ then I usually tell them my story. It really depends on the mood I’m in. I always want to tell everybody about it, but if I’m really tired, I don’t always have it in me because it’s always a good 30-minute conversation. But I always get to meet someone really cool in the process.
What is a typical day life for you, starting when you get to work and ending when you get home?
I get up super early. I’m an early-riser. I really enjoy reading the news and just finding out anything that might be trending or something that might be a hot topic or news item. From there, we get to the office around 8:30. My staff and I, we get together and go over the tasks for the day and the vision for the week. Throughout the day, it’s a lot of hard work. Everybody here at High Fives works really hard; it’s not just myself. My staff is very determined and very focused. It’s because we get to see some amazing things happen. I think that’s why we all work so much and are so driven, because we get to mingle in the positive sensations that the job brings throughout the workday. We get to see people accomplish new things. When they accomplish these things, it’s not like… we’re not a stock trading company where we just made a lot of money. We saw someone in real-life, tangible form pass a goal that they had set for themselves. When you get to witness that, it really changes how you look at the workday or the workweek. For us at High Fives, the big thing is putting a hard-work, forwarding-thinking approach to a non-profit and reaping the benefits of seeing the work we put in every week—raising the money, directing the foundation in a way that we get to see these almost bigger-than-life accomplishments happen by athletes almost on a daily basis now.
How does your job effect someone’s day?
It really depends on the program we are working on. If it’s the empowerment fund, we are providing a grant to an individual who has suffered a catastrophic injury. That grant is helping them achieve something that they want to achieve in their recovery, or some goal that they set for themselves. So by providing them with a grant, they are able to have the financial means and the community backing of the foundation to accomplish those goals through the different types of recovery or the different types of equipment that the grant pays for.
Our healing center, which is located here in Truckee, is a facility like no other in the nation in my opinion. It’s a gym that also has a bunch of other things built inside of it. It’s created out of our community. Folks come here and they get to work out, and do different types of activity to help them in their recovery. This space is kind of like a little piece of heaven in reality. Being named after C.R. [Johnson] we have someone super positive looking over that athlete and inspiring them.
Our B.A.S.I.C.S. program provides safety education. When we get to go and present our safety education documentary at a school, you get to see kids and that light bulb set off in their head. And when that light bulb goes off, it’s like they get it and they understand how to be a little bit safer on the mountain. It makes you feel good that you’re protecting the community by providing more information to these kids.
Then lastly, our military program—bringing veterans to snow, especially veterans who haven’t seen snow pretty much in their life, and giving them the ability to slide on snow for the first time… I’ve never people smile so big in my life.
At the end of the day, I really believe that through all those programs that I just mentioned, the key is that we surround everybody with community, and through that they say thank you with a big smile. And the smiles we get to see are bigger than anything I’ve ever imagined.
What was your first job in the outdoor industry?
My first job, I was a tech rep for Head/Tyrolia… I wasn’t even a tech rep. I guess you could just say a rep assistant for Head/Tyrolia under Boomer Mumford on the East Coast, in Vermont.
How does someone get your job?
It’s kind of like when kids ask if they can be sponsored by High Fives. You don’t want to be sponsored by High Fives, so be grateful that it’s there. For me, I got the job because I suffered a life-altering injury. To get this job would be pretty hard. A) I don’t ever see myself leaving, and B) I don’t ever wish upon anyone the injury and the road that I had to take to get to this, to formulate and create [this foundation]. It’s been a long road, but the perk of it is, like I said, that smile.
What are the pros of your job?
The pros of my job are the people, plain and simple. I get to meet, interact and hang out with some of the best people in the world, from folks within the outdoor industry to the athletes that we support to the staff that I have here at the foundation. And the way that it allows me to have a really fun-filled life, an activity-based life through the interactions with High Fives. The people I get to meet are just phenomenal, and that goes throughout the spectrum of the foundation, from those that support to those that we support, and the people that make everything happen on the High Fives staff.
What are the cons?
I don’t know what a 40-hour workweek looks like. And that’s pretty much it.