June 2019 Empowerment Grants Funded

We are proud to support these athletes throughout their recovery

In June 2019, the High Fives Foundation distributed $130,450 in board approved grant funding to 19 individuals. 7 new grant recipients and 12 existing #HighFivesAthletes.

Rio Peterson | New Meadows, ID

Rio sustained a burst fracture at C5 as well as fractures at C3/7. The injury occurred during a variable snow day at Squaw Valley. Rio was traversing under Headwall chairlift when he hit a bump. A combination of the variable snow and poor reaction caused him to eject from his skis. The ejection threw Rio head first into hard pack snow, causing his injury.

Rio was a patient at Craig Hospital and took full advantage of his therapies at the esteemed Englewood, CO facility. He has, and continues to make a great recovery, and he has already started to pay it forward, hosting a fundraiser for the High Fives Foundation this past September.

In June, High Fives granted Rio a series of home modifications that will help with his independence and navigating his Idaho home.

When Rio is ready, High Fives looks forward to helping him get back out on the hill!

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Justin Pines | Englewood, CO

After hitting a tree off the Headwall lift at Squaw Valley in April 2016, Justin Pines dislocated his spine at T4/5. He also sustained a T4 fracture and T5 burst fracture. The injury left Justin paralyzed from the chest down.

Following his injury, Justin hasn’t slowed down a bit. He’s an active road biker, spends countless hours per week in the gym and has re-fallen in love with skiing. High Fives provided Justin with a grant for his own Nissen sit-ski and custom Aspen Seating bucket so that he can enjoy the Colorado mountains with more regularity.

Now that I'll have my own sit ski I plan on being up in the mountains every weekend I can. I can't wait to have skiing be back in my life again.

exclaimed Justin Pines

Rod Alavi | Alamo, CA

Rod Alavi and his family have always been avid skiers in Northern California Sierra.

Mountain Range. On February 22, 2018, Rod suffered a spinal cord injury on the backside of Northstar Resort during a snowy day. His injury was a C5 agency incomplete spinal cord injury, and during his rehab at Craig Hospital he regained some mobility in his legs and hands.

Rod is making tremendous strides in his recovery, and the June 2019 High Fives grant cycle provided Rod with funding to be used toward personal training at SCI-Fit in Pleasanton, CA. Rod works day-in and day-out on his recovery, and couldn’t be happier about the progress that he has made during his time at the Northern California facility.

Commenting on his training at SCI-Fit. I continue to take more steps each month, my balance keeps getting better, my body keeps getting stronger, and my tone seems to be reducing.

Rod Alavi stated


Josh Harder | Alberta, Canada

Josh Harder sustained an L1 burst fracture in 2007 while competing in a professional mountain bike event. He overshot a jump and landed on his butt from over 30-feet.

Josh has worked very hard in the gym following his injury, and it has really shown, as he’s made a tremendous recovery.

Josh’s time in the gym has led to an infectiously positive attitude, and he’s even lost some weight – “I have lost quite a bit of weight and am down to 191 lbs., and the gains I have in my abilities have far surpassed my expectations.”

High Fives granted Josh 24 sessions of Physical Therapy in his hometown of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada so that he can maintain his healing trajectory.

The weight I'm lifting, pushing, and pulling has all increased by almost double since I started. I am also able to sustain a higher heart rate. I used to be toast at 130bpm and I've bumped that up to 150-160bpm.

said Josh Harder

Megan Wemmer | Boulder, CO

While on a backcountry ski tour in the Arapahoe National Forrest with her boyfriend in February 2015, Megan Wemmer was searching for her glasses in the hut that they were staying in. Megan went to climb up to the second floor when the ladder gave out causing her to fall directly on her back from 12 feet in the air. The impact left Megan unable to move her lower extremities, and her boyfriend immediately hiked out of the wilderness and sent a rescue team to extract her.

Following her life-altering injury, Megan has remained active, whether it’s in the gym or outside. In a June 2019 High Fives grant Megan received extended physical therapy sessions along with snowshoes that she plans to use a lot this upcoming winter.

It has been a goal throughout my recovery to get out and stay active throughout the year, which can be difficult during the cold winter months. The new snowshoe setup will really help me get outside and move confidently over snowy ground, without fear of slipping and not being able to re-gain my balance. They will enable me to get out on some of our local trails on snowshoes first, and hopefully will be able get back on some backcountry skis!

explained Megan Wemmer


Mike Greenlee | Reno, NV

While riding the Siberia chair lift at Squaw Valley, Mike lost consciousness and fell 40 feet to the snow. He sustained a burst fracture of T9, which caused a complete spinal cord injury. Shortly after being care-flighted to Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno, NV, Mike underwent 6 hours of surgery – laminectomies of T8 and T9 and spinal fusion from T5 to T12.High Fives Foundation was honored to provide Mike with a June grant to be used toward adaptive paddle sport lessons, wheelchair tires and an adaptive beach wheelchair so that he can continue to continue to attack the open water on his own time.

My whole life I’ve loved playing in the water. Since my injury, my time in the water has been limited, but I’ve loved every second of it. The rush I get after a nice swim session is unmatched. Water makes me happy!

#HighFivesAthlete Mike Greenlee was proud to report

Jay Rawe | Bradenton, FL

Jay Rawe was involved in a 2014 BASE jumping accident when a jump went wrong off the Perrine Bridge in Idaho. Jay became tangled in his chute, and upon hitting the ground from 486 feet, he was very lucky to have only suffered an L1 burst fracture, causing temporary paralysis at L5.

Jay hasn’t slowed down since his injury a bit. He still lives a high octane lifestyle and has started to take the adaptive ski world by storm, landing the first 540 in sit-ski history.

Jay works out consistently at the CR Johnson Healing Center and a June High Fives Foundation grant is covering massage and acupuncture sessions at the facility to pair with his workouts so he can keep skiing and dropping people’s jaws.


Soren Lindholm | Carbondale, CO

At the Free Heel Life Cup finals (a telemark skiing big mountain competition) Soren Lindholm chose a difficult yet skiable line, featuring a double cliff air near the bottom. Soren’s run was going great until it come to the double cliff. He went off the first cliff a little too fast and was leaning a little too far back. He missed the landing, which was the takeoff to the second cliff was and bounced on his butt off the rocks and slid down.

Soren suffered a burst fracture at his L1 vertebra and had corrective surgery to fuse his T11 and T12 vertebrae. Soren is currently paralyzed from the waist down.

Soren was introduced to the High Fives Foundation from mutual acquaintances at Craig Hospital in Englewood, CO. He was a “favorite patient” of many of his therapists, and he truly made the most of his time at the facility.

Soren is currently living back home in Carbondale, Colorado and a June High Fives Foundation grant provided him with costly non-insurance covered medical supplies while he focuses on his recovery and is looking into college.

Chris Barkley | Spokane Valley, WA

Chris Barkley was injured in a ski accident, which led to a C4 incomplete spinal cord injury.

Chris has huge family support and has not let his injury define him in the least. He has recently transferred to a manual wheelchair that the High Fives Foundation provided him in a June 2019 grant.

High Fives also provided Chris with home modifications that will help him access different areas of his house and enjoy quality family time.

The manual chair will give me independence by allowing me to use my own strength to get places. I will have a sense of participation and be more mobile.

said Chris Barkley with a smile


Lindsey Runkel | East Coast

Lindsay Runkel fractured her T5 and 6 vertebrae in a 2014 mountain bike accident. She was attempting a 15 foot drop on her downhill bike when the accident occurred. Lindsey landed slightly forward on her bike and hit a rut in the dirt causing her to be thrown over the handlebars. Lindsey’s spinal cord was crushed causing paralysis from her chest down.

In June, the High Fives granted Lindsey funds to afford a new wheelchair from Hands on Concepts (HOC). The wheelchair is far more maneuverable, lightweight and narrower than her old chair. The new chair will help with independence and daily ease for Lindsey.

This HOC chair is going to be a game changer for me. The chair that I am currently in is one that I was fitted for when I was first hurt almost 5 years ago. As I've progressed through my injury journey, I have found this chair to not only be ill fitting but cumbersome. The HOC chair is so uniquely fit and I can get through tighter spaces.

Lindsey Runkel said enthusiastically

Taylor Fiddyment | Truckee, CA

Taylor Fiddyment was injured while riding a four-wheeler with some friends in May 2011. She has massive support from her family and friends, and is willing to try anything, whether it’s in the gym or exploring the outdoors.

The High Fives Foundation has helped Taylor get back out on the ski slopes through lessons and multiple therapies throughout the years. In June the High Fives Foundation granted Taylor one-on-one Pilates sessions to help her stay strong and limber while she enjoys an active outdoor lifestyle.

I cannot wait to continue strengthening my core and maximizing my bodies efficiency. This is a therapy I wouldn’t be able to partake in without the help of High Fives.

said Taylor Fiddyment


Tyler McKenzie | Salt Lake City, UT

On Memorial day weekend 2017, things completely changed for Tyler McKenzie. After skiing down off the cirque at Snowbird to catch the last Tram of the day, Tyler and his friends were picking their way down the traverse, when a small wet slide put him off balance, carrying him just off the trail and spinning him around. In his periphery, Tyler saw that he was sliding toward a tree and exposed terrain that had been covered with snow all season. At that point, he turned his head/face from the tree and braced for impact.

The impact led to nerves from Tyler’s arm being removed from his spinal cord, leading to temporary paralysis in his arm.

The High Fives Foundation provided Tyler with a grant to be used toward Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy at the Salt Lake City-based facility Neuroworx along with massage sessions that pair specifically well with his time in the gym.

As my body continues to adapt to it’s new structures and pathways, the massage sessions have shown me the value of recovery. The massage helps me manage my nerve pain while continuing to build off of the rigorous PT schedule that I have been afforded weekly at Neuroworx.

said Tyler McKenzie

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