Wounded veterans shred to heal at Granby Ranch
U.S. military veterans have given their all for the country, and the High Fives Foundation gives back to them through its Military to the Mountains program. On March 30 at Granby Ranch, 22 wounded veterans and first responders skied or snowboarded down the slopes. Many of them experienced skiing or snowboarding for the first time since their injury.
The High Fives Foundation’s Military to the Mountains program supports U.S. military veterans and first responders through adaptive skiing and snowboarding. Participants are chosen from the Adaptive Training Foundation in Texas to head to Granby Ranch and Palisades Tahoe in California for week-long resort experience.
“As somebody who loves a new challenge, High Fives offered such an amazing week with a sport I thought I’d never try,” wrote adaptive athlete Kyle Patterson after the experience.
Patterson, who is from Fort Worth, Texas, joined the U.S. Marine Corps after graduation in 2017. Patterson was deployed to Iraq as part of a sniper team, and served as a mortar man. In 2020, he sustained a severe injury to his right hand during a training accident with mortar. His hand was amputated; he decided to pursue fitness and competitions to heal himself mentally and physically.
“Going to the mountain with an open mind and leaving humbled with bruises, snowboarding has now become a sport I want to master. A deep appreciation to High Fives for making everything possible,” Patterson said.
Veteran Mike Murphy also snowboarded at Granby Ranch, a new sport for him. Murphy, who is from New Mexico, enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2011. Through the majority of his service, Murphy was an unmanned aircraft systems operator. He was deployed to Kuwait and Iraq, as well as Germany and Greece.
In 2018, Murphy was involved in an airfield accident that resulted in a traumatic brain injury, damaging his optic nerve. This led to Murphy eventually losing 80% of his sight. After his injury, he pursued many adaptive sports, from whitewater kayaking to weightlifting.
“Just wanted to say thank you for the weekend with Military to the Mountains. It was an awesome time to bring together our nine weeks of hard work and to get us out there and adapt,” Murphy wrote after his experience at Granby Ranch. “Me specifically, it was awesome becoming a part of a new family. Even though my first day wasn’t the greatest, you guys were able to help me adapt and shred.”
Although Military to the Mountains participants have faced life-altering injuries, they find a new way to embrace life through athleticism and camaraderie with fellow veterans. Before their resort trip, they train for nine weeks with the program to learn adaptive skills.
“The program is a powerful way to tell the stories of veterans who have sustained life-changing injuries,” stated Brandon Martinez, media relations manager for the High Fives Foundation, in a news release. “(Military to the Mountains) introduces them to the healing effects of skiing and snowboarding and an athletic, goal-oriented training program.”
Military to the Mountains is completely free for participants, including transportation, lodging, training, and outfitting participants with the right equipment and apparel. Since its inception in 2015, the program has supported 158 veterans and first responders.
Military to the Mountains is just one of several programs offered by the High Fives Foundation. Roy Tuscany founded High Fives in 2009 to help other adaptive athletes like him. After sustaining a spinal cord injury while skiing in 2006 that rendered him paraplegic, Tuscany was determined to walk out of the hospital. To stay positive, he greeted every visitor and hospital employee with a high five. After overcoming his paralysis, Tuscany started the California-based nonprofit to support athletes who have suffered a life-altering injury while pursuing sports, as well as veterans. High Fives offers grants, snow safety education and community-building camps to help athletes reimagine what’s possible for them post-injury.
Watch the participants take on the mountain in the video below:
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