I remember how thrilled I was getting an email from Kenny Salvini a few months ago. He said he was ready to do it and he wondered if I’d be interested in being there with him at Snoqualmie Summit.
I’d met Kenny last year and shared his story. We kept in touch and I’m glad we did. I told him of course I wanted to be there and witness what he was about to do. In fact photojournalist Scott Jensen and I got front row seats to this amazing moment in his life.
Kenny Salvini decided it was time.
It was time to face his fears, and ski again.
“I knew this day would come,” said Jeanne Salvini, Kenny’s mother. She knew. Kenny wasn’t so sure, especially after the accident ten years ago that left him paralyzed from the neck down.
“I hit the jump going a little too fast and it shot me, almost forty feet. The jump wasn’t exactly designed properly and uh took a spill onto my head and broke my neck, my back and my leg all at once,”says Kenny, who is quadriplegic and now 33 years old.
Kenny was ready. He would need help, and got the help from volunteers with a group called Outdoors for All. The group offers recreational activities from children and adults with disabilities.
Here are some of his thoughts before he took his first run at Snoqualmie Summit.
“I am still, at my core, the same thrill seeker my dad unleashed on that very mountain 30 years ago, so the last thing I wanted was for it to be some sort of patronizing push around the parking lot in a makeshift sled, more symbolic than it would be adventurous.”
Kenny Salvini got what he wanted. This was no ‘patronizing push around the parking lot’ as he put it so eloquently. This was the real thing, going down that hill fast. If you don’t believe me take a look at the story we posted today. What an honor to be witness to this moment, and this thrill of Kenny Salvini’s lifetime.
I asked him "why now?" His response: “To show myself and everybody around me that that day didn’t ruin me, that the injury didn’t win. The fear of tragedy striking doesn’t have to win, that you could still do life, that you really can.”
His late wife Kristin would have been proud. She always encouraged him to "do life." Together they joined forces a few years ago to help others also suffering from paralysis. It’s happening now. Kenny Salvini has created the Here and Now project to help people with disabilities make the transition to their new lives, so they can "do life" too.
Getting back to the slopes. What a thrill it was to see his family there too. Mandy Armstrong is Kenny’s sister.
“Kenny’s good. As long as Kenny’s good, we’re all good.”
And his dad Skip: “To see him up here . And he was smiling. and he looked like he was having fun. I’m really grateful to the people up here.”
As for Kenny’s reaction?
“Feels good. It was really smooth. Snow feels good, just like I remembered it.”