Roy’s Rise

After fighting back from a devastating injury, Roy Tuscany is on a mission to help U.S. Paralympic athletes reach the podium. Two Toyota dealers are paving the way.
by Kristen Orsborn
Nov/Dec 2018
Roy’s Rise
One Step at a Time
Roy Tuscany (center) had dreams of a professional skiing career before a catastrophic accident left him paralyzed. After nearly two months of grueling physical therapy, he walked out of a rehabilitation center on his own two feet.
As the founder and CEO of the High Fives Foundation, Roy Tuscany has done remarkable things.

He’s helped athletes devastated by spinal cord injuries return to their sport. He’s helped veterans bearing physical and mental scars of the battlefield find peace and purpose. But none of that was ever part of his plan.

“Honestly, I just wanted to be a pro skier,” Tuscany explains – with enthusiasm so electric, you have absolutely zero doubt he could do it. “Growing up in Vermont, that was always my dream. And that’s what I always thought I would do.”

That’s not what happened. In 2006, Tuscany was skiing on California’s Mammoth Mountain when he soared 130 feet in the air on a 100-foot jump, overshooting and missing the landing. When Tuscany crashed into the ground, the impact crushed the T12 vertebrae in his spine. He was paralyzed. And devastated.

A Decision to Fight

“At first, I didn’t believe it,” Tuscany explains. “I thought I would be OK in a few hours. But then it hit me, and I felt empty inside. Everything I dreamed of was gone. Doctors told me I’d never walk again. But I had a decision to make. And I decided to fight. I decided to prove them wrong.”

And he did. Nearly two months after entering a rehabilitation center in a wheelchair, he walked out on his own two feet. A professional skiing career may have been out of reach, but now, he had a different -- perhaps higher -- calling. Tuscany wanted to help other injured athletes fight back from their diagnoses and get back in the game.

“I knew I wouldn’t be the last person to have an accident like this,” Tuscany says. “I knew other people would be impacted by life-changing injuries while participating in sports they love. I thought, why not help them? Why not try to make a difference? So, I started High Fives.”

A New Mission

The High Fives Foundation is Tuscany’s nonprofit organization, named after he high-fived a doctor who helped save his life. But Tuscany never planned on running a nonprofit. He needed a business mentor and, frankly, some funding. He got both when Brian McCafferty, dealer principal of Avondale Toyota near Phoenix and One Toyota of Oakland, walked through his door.
 

A Helping Hand
High Fives Founder and CEO Roy Tuscany (second from left) received generous support from Brady Dolan (center) and Ryan Dolan (second from right) of Dolan Toyota. The Dolans say the opportunity to support the mobility movement is important to them as representatives of the Toyota brand.



“I actually just kind of stumbled on this guy,” McCafferty says, laughing. “I figured out pretty quickly that his drive and enthusiasm were unlike anything I had ever seen. I spend part of my time in Truckee, California, where High Fives is based, and I wanted to find ways to connect with the community. I started seeing the work that Roy was doing, and I wanted to get involved.”

McCafferty did just that. He donated money and time as a management mentor to Tuscany as the nonprofit grew and hired additional staff.

When Tuscany needed help expanding his organization’s reach even further, he turned to another influential Toyota dealer: Dolan Auto Group in Reno, Nevada.

“The effect they’re having in the community is incredible,” says Brady Dolan, dealer principal and general manager of Dolan Toyota. “The work they’re doing for the mobility movement is something that’s important to us. So it really hit home for us.”

Dolan’s brother Ryan, dealer principal and CEO of Dolan Toyota, agrees.

“We want our community to grow along with us,” he says. “Being able to give back makes just as much of an impact as selling a car. We’re happy to help.”

With the support of both McCafferty and the Dolans, High Fives has helped hundreds of people across the country Start Their Impossible, whether that means buying adaptive training gear or paying for medical treatment and recovery. Tuscany recently started a Military to the Mountains program, which teaches injured veterans how to ski in idyllic Squaw Valley. Education is another priority: High Fives invests heavily in injury prevention, educating children about safety protocols to avoid the kinds of dangerous accidents that Tuscany experienced.
 

A Powerful Partnership
Brian McCafferty (right), dealer principal of Avondale Toyota and One Toyota of Oakland, provided funding and business mentorship when Roy Tuscany (left) was just getting the High Fives Foundation off the ground.



“It’s not just a matter of giving Roy money,” McCafferty says. “I’m really giving resources to the people he’s helping. He’s not only rehabilitating people’s bodies, but their minds, too. He’s reconnecting them with the sports they love. That’s priceless.”

Dreams of Gold

Now, Tuscany has set his sights on the world stage, and wants to help prepare the next class of Paralympic athletes representing the United States.

“Cost should never be a barrier to someone with a dream,” he says. “But training fees for adaptive athletes are very, very expensive. The gear costs thousands and thousands of dollars. Where do you find the funding? It doesn’t exist. But with help from sponsors like Toyota, it can be a game changer. We’re able to step up and fund these athletes. We provide them with equipment, training and coaching fees. Whatever it takes to help these guys make the podium and make their dream come true.”

For now, Tuscany is laser-focused on preparing the next crop of elite Paralympic athletes for the 2020 Games. And while his dream of becoming a professional skier didn’t come to pass, he’s changed more lives than he ever thought possible. And he’s grateful to have the support of Toyota dealers like McCafferty and the Dolans each step of the way.

“If each dealer in America was this involved, we’d have the most amazing network of human beings serving our community,” Tuscany says. “There are so many things these guys have done for me, and in turn, these athletes. They’re giving them the platform to be the best they can be, regardless of their ability, and make the impossible, possible.”

For more information on how you can support The High Fives Foundation, check out highfivesfoundation.org or email katherine.helffrich@toyota.com.
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