In the month of May alone, the High Fives Foundation granted $37,186 to 11 High Fives Athletes. High Five to our 4 western region athletes Ran TaoAlina Garbuzov, Matt Clark & Kevin Cheung!

The High Fives Foundation supports injured mountain sports athletes through grant funding to be used towards reaching their recovery goals. Since the High Fives Foundation’s January 2009 inception, the Empowerment program service has assisted 110 athletes from 23 states in nine respective funding categories which include: living expenses, insurance, travel, health, healing network, adaptive equipment, winter equipment, programs and “stoke” (positive energy, outlook and attitude).

The Empowerment Fund provides resources and inspiration to those who suffer a life-altering injury. Life-altering injuries are injuries such as spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, amputation or other mobility-limiting injuries that occurred in an athlete’s lifetime. The resources and inspiration we provide come in the form of board-approved grant funding paid to service providers.

“With the Foundation based in Tahoe, it is so important to act as the safety net for all the athletes in the area,” says Roy Tuscany, Executive Director of High Fives Foundation. “This year we have returned numerous athletes back to snow and helped helped others in their recovery, it is truly a blessing.”


Ran Tao, 21, was snowboarding at Northstar Resort near Truckee, California in January this year when he jumped off a terrain park feature and landed on his back, causing an injury to his C6 vertebrae. Tao is paralyzed from the chest down.

After surgeries at Renown Medical Center in Reno, Nevada, Tao is back at his home in San Ramon, California. He is working on mobility and independence.

In May 2016, Tao received an Empowerment Grant from the High Fives Foundation for sessions of acupuncture and personal training at SCI Fit in Pleasanton, California.


“I want to gain independence in everyday living,” Tao said,  “from my morning/night routine to some basic house chores.”

Independence comes in the form of transferring on his own between his wheelchair and the car, or his own bed. It also means showering without help and eventually driving a vehicle with hand controls.

“Ran is very motivated, and he has a laundry list of goals,” said Roy Tuscany, Executive Director of the High Fives Foundation.  “He will put this setback behind him before he knows it. We’re thrilled to help athletes like Ran who are so proactive about their recovery.”

In the month of May alone, the High Fives Foundation granted $37,186 to 11 High Fives Athletes.


31-year-old Alina Garbuzov was a seasoned rock climber with nearly ten years experience.In October 2015, Garbuzo was in Yosemite National Park climbing on terrain that was well below her ability when her backpack slipped and threw her off balance. Her climbing partner was relatively new to climbing and had a hard time stopping her fall. She fell sixty feet before the rope stopped her. The impact of the fall fractured her L1 vertebra, badly broke thumb, scapula, ribs and collapsed a lung.

Three helicopter rides later, Garbuzov found herself at Stanford Hospital where she had surgery to open the vertebra and fuse her spine above and below the fracture.

She was paralyzed from the waist down, but sensation and function quickly have begun to return. Six months later, she is still in a wheelchair.

In the month of May, Lake Tahoe-based non-profit, the High Fives Foundation awarded Garbuzov a grant to travel to Neuroworx, a specialized physical therapy facility in Salt Lake City, Utah for specialized training, Pilates, and natural water training. Included in the grant is a wetsuit.

Summit! 14 hours, 24 pitches.

“My short-term goals are to improve at swimming and biking enough to complete a long-distance swim outdoors and to participate in a triathalon,” Garbuzov said. “My long-term goals are to transition out of using a wheelchair to crutches and canes.”

“Alina is an incredibly hard worker and plans to make this injury a distant memory,” said Roy Tuscany, Executive Director of the High Fives Foundation. “She has lower extremity movement and plans to keep working it until it gets strong enough to walk again.”

In the month of May alone, the High Fives Foundation granted $37,186 to 11 High Fives Athletes.


38-year-old Matt Clark was snowboarding at Squaw Valley in January when a rock drop came up short in the infamous zone known as the Fingers.

The mistake caused Clark to land directly on his back on the rocks, propelling to the bottom of the cliff, 40 feet from where he started. He was unable to move his lower extremities upon impact and was immediately airlifted to Renown Medical Center where he underwent surgery for his damaged spinal cord.

With a grant from the High Fives Foundation, Clark will train in Truckee, California at the CR Johnson Healing Center with sessions of Neuro Kinetic Pilates with head traininer Jack Powell and physical therapy with Greg Booth.

“High Fives is a way for me to accelerate my healing process by working with those specialized in dealing with traumatic spinal cord injuries,” said Clark. “I am grateful for the opportunity to heal in a positive environment that will help me quickly regain my strength and overall fitness so that I can return to an active lifestyle.”

“Matt, like so many others in the Tahoe Basin, lives for outdoor activity and recreation,” said Roy Tuscany, Executive Director of the High Fives Foundation. “He plans to work hard in his therapies; The CR Johnson Healing Center will be a good environment for him.”

In the month of May alone, the High Fives Foundation granted $37,186 to 11 High Fives Athletes.



24-year-old Kevin Cheung was skiing at Squaw Valley in March of 2015 when he over-rotated a front-flip off of a jump at Squaw’s Gold Coast Terrain Park.

The mistake caused Cheung to land face first, resulting in burst fractures of the spine, and causing paralysis of his lower back and legs.


He recently left outpatient rehabilitation at  Craig Hospital in Denver, Colo., and is back in the Bay Area where he grew up.

With an Empowerment Grant from the Tahoe-Based High Fives Foundation, Cheung will train at Peninsula Jewish Community Center and will receive 6-months of Bio-feedback Hand Therapy from Neofect in Burlingame, Calif.

“My current long term goal is to return back to skiing and biking, says Cheung. “Continuing my PT with the support that High Fives has given me makes all these goals possible. High Fives means a lot to me in that I do not feel as if I’m in this challenge alone.”

“Each day Kevin continues to improve in his recovery,” says Roy Tuscany, Executive Director of the High Fives Foundation. “We are so happy to be able to support each new step; he is charging towards the goal returning to the mountain sports he loves.”

In the month of May alone, the High Fives Foundation granted $37,186 to 11 High Fives Athletes.


Learn more about High Fives May Empowerment Grants

Western Region HERE

Central Region HERE

Easter Region HERE

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