TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. - The High Fives Foundation - Winter Empowerment Program Service disburses board approved grants to disabled winter action sports athletes participating in winter adaptive sports. In September 2012 the board of directors approved the following grants for eight athletes totaling more than $41,000.
To date, the Winter Empowerment Fund has assisted 33 athletes in eight respective funding categories which include: living expenses, insurance, travel, health, High Fives Healing Network, adaptive equipment, winter equipment, programs and stoke (positive energy, outlook and attitude).
September grant recipients
Andrew Kurka, Palmer, Ark.
In 2005 at the age of 13 Andrew suffered at spinal cord injury at the T10 level. Two years later, at 15, with the help of Challenge Alaska and his physical therapist, he was able to participate in adaptive skiing. Andrew was an avid wrestler and competitor before his injury, and had dreams of making it big on the Olympic circuit. Today, with the help of the High Fives Foundation and US Paralympics he's able to continue chasing his dream on the snow. Grant details: Winter equipment $2,475; two pair of Volkl GS Skis; two pair of Volkl SL Skis four sets of Marker bindings. Total $2,475.
Jasmin Bambur, Granby, Colo.
Jasmin was paralyzed in a car accident in 2000. He did not let his disability stop him going on to finish college and becoming a professional athlete. Jasmin's passion is alpine skiing. The only time he feels completely free from his wheelchair is when he is shredding down the slopes. He races all over the world and often gets up on the podium. Jasmin trains year-round and wants to win gold in his second Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. Grant details: Living expense $1,560 (utilities: $260/month for six months); Adaptive equipment $4,700 (Aspen Seating for Mono Ski); Winter equipment $3,062.50 (Volkl SL, GS, SG, and DH Skis and four sets of Marker Bindings). Total $9,322.50
Ben Hulin, South Bend, Ind.
Ben was injured Sept. 24, 2006 in a motorcycle accident which left him with a T 5-6 complete spinal cord injury. Ben spent five weeks in inpatient therapy and discovered wheelchair racing about five months after his injury. He soon found the mountains and the ability to ski and has not looked back. Skiing with his family, while challenging himself, has been a blessing to Ben. He can't wait to hit the slopes this winter. Grant details: Travel ($500 to Athlete Account); Programs ($500 to Athlete Account). Total $1,000.
John Supon, St. Petersburg, Fla.
John was paralyzed in a motor vehicle accident in 2006. He started skiing last season and competed at the national level while finishing top 10 in the U.S. John loves to compete in multiple Paralympic events that include mono-skiing, rowing and weightlifting. John also works with local hospitals and veterans being a mentor for newly injured spinal cord injury patients. John now looks forward to becoming a recreational therapist and helping other disabled athletes pursue their goals. Until then John is pursuing his goal of getting to the 2014 and 2016 Paralympics and bringing home a gold medal for the U.S.A. Grant details: Winter equipment $3,975 (two Volkl SL Skis, two GS Skis, two SG Skis, two Speed Plates, six pairs of Marker bindings). Total $3,975.
Christine Slavin, Ipswich, Mass.
Chris was born with a genetic disorder called Small Patella Syndrome, which affected the way her bones developed causing her to use braces and forearm crutches to get around. Despite Chris' disability she has always been active in sports, and had a love for competition. In 2007, while competing in the adaptive division at USASA Nationals at Northstar, Chris crashed during a slopestyle event and sustained an L1 incomplete SCI. Within nine months of her accident Chris began mono-skiing and currently has her sights set on the 2014 Paralympics. Grant details: Adaptive equipment $10,300 (Nissan Mono-Ski, Aspen Seating with custom straps and belt). Total $10,300.
Geoff Brown, Vista, Calif.
After a diving accident on Australia's Great Barrier Reef left Geoff paralyzed at T4, he was flown home to Ireland but then discovered the United States of America thanks to the Veterans Games. He has pursued many sports in the great outdoors and now spends his winters working on his skills as a skier. Grant details: Adaptive equipment $7,300 (Hoc 2 Edge Mono-ski and Superlite outriggers). Total $7,300.
Chris Jefferson, Grand Junction, Colo.
Chris was living the good life at 27, then he was struck with numerous tragedies for two-and-a-half years. Among these setbacks was a motorcycle accident that left Chris in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. However, Chris decided to make the decision to enjoy life despite tragedy. He has continued to keep his head up and move forward positively. Now, Chris is trying out for the U.S. Paralympic Ski Team with support from the High Fives Foundation. Grant details: Living expenses $3,900 (Grand Junction Rent, $650/month for six months). Health, vitamin supplements $1,800 (monthly gifts cards to City market for six months, $300), winter equipment $700 (Super-Lite outriggers $450, ski socks $100 and under-layers $250). Total $6,400.
Luca Gross, Missoula, Mont.
Lucas lost his leg in a car accident in 1988. As a driven youngster, he learned how to skateboard four months before he learned how to walk again. He picked up the shred in 1992. In 2000, he organized the first adaptive snowboard freestyle camps and national competition in the world with USASA. Now he is an aspiring athlete for the 2014 Paralympic games. Grant details: Travel ($500 to Athlete Account), programs ($500 to Athlete Account). Total $1,000.
The High Fives Foundation procures funding for such disbursements through laidback and fun fundraising events. Want to support the Foundation? Make a donation at www.highfivesfoundation.org/index.php/donate.