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The dramatic growth of “big-air” jump competitions and promotion of high-risk races, along with the huge growth of snowboarding, has launched winter snow-sports as a multi-million dollar industry. The industry of high-speed speed junkies has millions of snow-lovers showing off their skill and talent, leaving many beginners wanting to follow in their footsteps.

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Kenny Salvini before the accident, with this father riding in a truck

Kenny Salvini, loves extreme sports, has been skiing since the tender age of three years old, and by the age of 23, he had long surpassed the label of expert. On February 11, 2004, Salvini and his dad went with a few friends skiing in Snoqualmie Pass, Washington as they regularly did every Wednesday. Salvini came across a part of the summit that had an x-game-type terrain park. He had been in the terrain park skiing a few times before that year and felt comfortable with it.

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ski jump

During his first run at the park, he hit the defectively designed and contracted tabletop jump at the base of the Summit. He flew nearly four stories (40 feet) up in the air, at a speed of nearly 35 mph. Salvini crashed down on compact ice and snow. Upon impact, he had a huge headache and his neck hurt. He thought to himself that he should get up and walk it off, but he soon realized that nothing was moving. As he said, “I recognized the situation instantly, I was paralyzed.” The impact severed his spinal cord between c-3 and c-4 vertebrae. He was rushed to the hospital and spent three months in recovery.

Unfortunately, nine days later, after Salvini’s accident at the Summit, instructor Peter Melrose died at the foot of a different jump in the same ski area.

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Kenny Salvini just after the accident.

Salvini lives his life as a quadriplegic. Able to move only his head and shoulders, Kenny is thankful to be alive and as he says, “I find consolation in the fact that there still is a life for me to live. All I can do is take it (life) one day at a time and see what they each teach me.” This tragedy not only affected Salvini, but his family too. With one crash landing, his life went from calm to a whirlwind of chaos and pain. As Salvini says, “As I laid there, confused and terrified in a hospital bed, my family was wracked with grief and overwhelmed by doctors, nurses, therapists and social workers.”

In an attempt to make his statement about the lack of ski park safety, Salvini took the ski company to court. “They charge you $50 to get on the mountain, and that’s like going to a theme park and you expect the roller coasters to be safe,” he says.

During a five-week trial at the Regional Justice Center in Kent, engineers and an aeronautics professor from the University of California, Davis, testified about the improper jump design and short landing area. Salvini said he was surprised to learn the ski jump was never tested by engineers or properly designed. He won compensation for the injuries he sustained, he says he was shocked “to find out it’s just somebody gets a back hoe and builds up these mounds of snow, and so it’s kind of shocking to find out.” Salvini learned that prior to his accident, 15 other skiers and snowboarders had been hurt on the jump and yet park personnel kept the jump open to the public. The resort released a statement saying, “voluntary participation suggests that a skier or rider attempts the risk associated with the activity.”

Salvini supports the push for much-needed change, in a statement he shares, “Hopefully this will bring about a change for these ski resorts, when they build these terrain parks, they will build them with safety in mind, rather than being negligent about it.”

It’s estimated that Salvini’s medical needs will be more than $23 million over his lifetime. With his new life, Salvini is being led to many people, has inspired those he meets and has had experiences he might not otherwise have come across. Salvini was contacted by an agent interested in helping him get a book published. In the near future, he hopes to publish a book about his life.

Ski accidents acquit to millions of dollars spent in hospital and intensive care units all around the country. Ski and snowboarders are showing concern with safety more than ever before, due to the high number of fatalities and accidents on the rise.

This and many other tragedies have taken place each year and yet impact protection plans and hazard protection is often overlooked. The California Mountain Resort Safety board, examined 25 ski areas in California during the 2009-2010 winter. They evaluated impact protection — like fencing and padding — and trail design and maintenance, including terrain hazards — like creeks and cliffs and how well these were clearly marked.

Snow-sports and avalanche safety expert and the Chief Research Officer for the Snow-sports Safety Foundation, Dick Penniman said, “There aren’t any laws or statutes for impact protection or hazard protection at any ski resorts in California.” In a statement to ESPN he said, “What we wanted to do was try to show the ski and snowboard public what resorts are doing on their behalf to try to minimize serious injuries. Our approach is strictly educational: We’re trying to teach people what to look for, in terms of safety, when they’re choosing a ski area to visit.”

Their focus is on infrastructure meant to prevent serious severe injuries or fatalities. “We are looking at issues at resorts that could cause severe life-changing type injuries,” said Penniman. This is a beginning to the long debate and push for better plans to be in place for snow-sports.

After Salvini’s tragic accident he began a blog in June of 2005. The blog gained 1.5 million views in the first 2 years. His primary purpose for the blog was “for fun and to pass time,” says Salvini. In August, months after he began the blog he was on the front page of MSN.com and headlined as, “Quadriplegic Seeks Purpose.” The blog obtained a huge following. He found his purpose through telling his story. Since the birth of his blog, he has made many followers on Facebook and has been encouraged by a publishing company to write a book about his experience. In June of 2011, Salvini got married to Kristen Curry, the nurse who cared for him after his accident. Unfortunately, she passed away from a drug overdose in November of 2011, only 2 1/2 months after they got married. Salvini finds hope in what she taught him to do best and that was as he says, to “do life.” Salvini passes on the words “do life” to all that he meets and is working to form a foundation to pass the words of hope to others. Salvini struggles with her passing, though he finds comfort in his support network of people who have been through similar circumstances.

Salvini was recently interviewed by NBC and KING 5 News about his accident. NBC featured Salvini in an investigative report on Winter park Safety.  Salvini spoke to NBC news about the need for better safety on slopes and about his ski accident. Immediately following the interview with NBC news, KING 5 News film crew on scene for the NBC interview, gained interest in doing a news piece on Salvini. The piece aired February 13th and featured the love of his life (Kristen) and his loss of her and talk about how he is overcoming. March 17, 2014 Salvini was featured in a followup video by KING5 featuring his adventure back up to the mountain to attempt skiing again with adaptive sports group, Outdoors For All.

Kenny said living the life as a quadriplegic isn’t as bad as he thought it would be, but he feels that he has a higher power that is working for him, not against him. Salvini wishes to shine a light of hope to someone going through tough times. He continues to help inspire others through his blog, online and in his personal life.

December 5th, Salvini met with Andy, a motorcycle accident survivor who recently crashed on his motorcycle. Andy is a T-4 paraplegic and suffers a head injury from an accident that took place a couple of months ago. Salvini learned of Andy’s accident through friends and family and decided to see him at the hospital. Salvini came to offer words of support and comfort for these challenging times. Salvini will be meeting with Andy periodically and will be checking in on his progress and recovery.

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Jacoby Miles’ family in their newly remodeled home.

Salvini is inspiring paralyzed gymnast Jacoby Miles’s family and supporters after her recent tragic accident. On November 16, 2012, Miles, a level 9 gymnast, sustained a serious neck injury while performing a routine maneuver on the uneven bars. She became a quadriplegic after landing on her neck on an 8-inch mat at Roach Gymnastics in Sumner, Washington injuring her spinal cord. Miles is now paralyzed from the mid-chest down. Salvini’s mother met with the family at the hospital weeks after the accident to give words of hope. Melanie Roach, owner of Roach Gymnastics met with Kenny on December 6th, to talk with the team of fundraisers about Jacoby’s needs and provide encouragement. Roach’s hopes are to educate and inspire people to donate items and provide financial support for  her transition from the hospital to her home. Although doctors said using her legs again would be a ‘miracle’, her support system is praying for and believing she can make a full recovery. Salvini attended the Benefit Dinner & Auction, “A Gift for Jacoby” on December 17th at the Temple Theatre in Tacoma, WA. An extreme home makeover made the Mile’s family adaptable for Jacoby.

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Look Larson Toyota of Tacoma, Vintage Mobility International and Kersey Mobility donated a modified van to the family of quadriplegic Jacoby Miles

Look Larson Toyota of Tacoma, Vintage Mobility International and Kersey Mobility donated a $55,000 specially modified van to the family of Jacoby Miles. 1,933 donations totaling $272,217, have been made to support Jacoby’s recovery. To donate or provide encouragement visit:  Go Team Jacoby

Despite Salvini’s unfortunate circumstance, he has chosen to rise above, live life and help others understand his challenges. He inspires and motives others to live life the best they can. Salvini is a supporter of University of Washington (U.W.) Medicine’s Transitions Health Maintenance and Wellness Program (“Transitions”). The Transitions program is aimed at addressing the needs of individuals living with spinal cord injury (SCI). The program helps new spinal cord injury patients transition from inpatient rehabilitation into the first two years of their life. His generous donations have allowed the program to be offered to patients at no charge.

Salvini recently spoke to encourage the semifinalists on the show The Ultimate Fighter (S18/Ep10) aired on November 6, 2013. During filming of the show in the Summer of 2013, Salvini was in the Los Vegas area and was given the opportunity to be filmed. While giving a speech to the fighters, Salvini spoke about his accident and how he persevered through his obstacles to rise above and be victorious. He encouraged the fighters to persevere through their obstacles and tried to inspire them toward victory in their own lives.

The “ultimate fighter” is within each one of us – those who chose through life’s circumstances to rise above and be victorious. As Salvini says in his blog, “If you don’t risk the tragic, you’ll never experience the magic it has to offer.”

Salvini started the Here and Now Foundation in 2012, a place where survivors and supporters of spinal cord injuries can share their journey to help quadriplegic’s and paraplegic’s around the world find hope.

Join the Facebook  Here and Now Project, where communities and people are coming together. He is giving hope for the future, by focusing on today!

Salvini lives in Sumner, Washington with his dog Hank. He is living life victoriously and perseveres each and every day.

Check out Salvini’s blog at: http://smalls149.wordpress.com

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Recent picture of Kenny Salvini with his mother, father and sister

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Notes & References:

1. http://sports.espn.go.com/action/freeskiing/news/story?id=6035058
2. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2103521/Washington-avalanches-3-dead-Stevens-Pass-1-killed-Alpental-ski-area.html
3. http://www.komonews.com/news/local/6918867.html
4. http://www.seattlepi.com/local/article/Are-some-ski-park-jumps-too-risky-1267313.php
5. http://www.charlieplace.com/kenny.html
6. http://rehab.washington.edu/aboutus/newsarchives.asp?media=print