In Kelly’s Words – The Surprise Was More Fun For Me


Although we’ve made grants to over 600 people with paralysis like me, a couple weeks ago we did something we’d never done before. We surprised a grant recipient with a handcycle at her door Publisher’s Clearing House-style. It was awesome!


Here’s how it happened. We have a few Force 3 handcycles (a mid-level, multi-purpose handcycle) that we have purchased for partnerships that we have started with adaptive sports programs. During our fall grant cycle, a young woman named Bridget applied for a Force 3 handcycle. Because we had an extra in our possession, we immediately thought of surprising her with it. She applied for the exact bike that we had, lived only about 2 hours from our office in Burlington, VT, and had a really compelling story. Plus we had a lot in common: she was injured when she was 19 and has a daughter who was a toddler.


Typically, when we give a grant we send a letter with the letter announcing the award and ask people to take a picture with a sign that we send them that says “Thank You”. They then order the piece of equipment and we pay the vendor directly.


To make the surprise work, we pulled Bridget’s letter from the stack before we sent them all out. We learned later that she saw on Facebook that we had sent letters announcing our awards and assumed she hadn’t been awarded a grant and was really bummed.


Zeke “Facebook stalked” her brother (an MMA fighter, which made Zeke nervous with the whole stalking aspect…) and fiancé and got in touch with them to set it all up. Bridget is a stay-at-home mom of her 2 year-old daughter Tinsley. Her fiancé was really excited and arranged to have her mom say she would take her out to lunch so she looked presentable when we arrived with the camera. It worked great!



For me, it was really fun to see the emotion from Bridget when I told her we were there to give her a handcycle. That is a reaction I never get to see so it was really fun. We spent a couple hours with her getting her set up in the bike, going for a short ride, playing with her daughter and having lunch with them at their house. It was so nice to get to know Bridget, a really incredible young woman. We shared stories of mothering toddlers from a wheelchair and swapped notes about a lot of things.


I hope we can make this something we do each grant cycle, it was an awesome way to interact with members of the #KBFamily!


I have to give a special shout out to Skirack. This is a ski and bike shop that has been a partner of ours for years, they have sponsored the Kelly Brush Ride and provided support for a number of years. When we had this handcycle they donated the time and manpower to assemble it and then provided us with the videographer to film our day with Bridget. If anyone is in the Burlington area and looking for a ski or bike shop, please consider Skirack!


Dylan Update:


About a month ago Zeke cut down a tree in our yard and I brought Dylan outside so we could watch it fall. When it fell across the yard Dylan couldn’t stop saying “Whoa”! Since then Dylan continues to talk about “tree”, followed by “whoa!”, then ask dada for “more”. It is amazing that this has stuck in her mind so well! Apparently she talks about the trees going whoa at daycare a bunch too. We cut down our Christmas tree this weekend as well and she was very excited to see another tree go “whoa”! I can’t imagine that she’ll remember this, but the amount she talks about it I wonder if this will be her first memory. Pretty amazing to see her little mind work! See the video to the right of her talking about the trees.

Killington World Cup Recap


Mikaela approaching the finish in Run 2 of the Slalom (see full photo and video galleries below)

The Kelly Brush Foundation had two main goals and two big hopes for the Killington World Cup:


  • Goal 1: Talk about safety. Encourage everyone to take note of safety in action and bring lessons back to their home hill this season: ✔


  • Goal 2: Throw an awesome apres that brought nearly 1,000 people from the eastern ski racing community together: ✔


  • Hope 1: Killington, the organizing committee, and all the volunteers host a world class World Cup: ✔


  • Hope 2: Mikaela wins the slalom: ✔


But now the real work starts! Our first goal was to further the conversation about safety. Now we need to execute. Especially after a recent high-profile tragedy in the sport (see KBF message to ski community), now is the time to take every lesson we can about safety and make tangible improvements this season. Please join us in the conversation and help improve safety, it is everyone’s responsibility.


There are two ways you can help today:

  • 1. Please consider making a gift by the end of #GivingTuesday on Nov. 28 (link to give). It will be matched up to $10,000 today and tomorrow only!
  • 2. Look for the “Ski Racing Safety is NO Accident” poster that your local race club will be receiving THIS WEEK (Link to 2017 Ski Racing Safety Poster)! If you don’t see it on the wall at your local program, ask them why not!



Again, thank you to everyone in the ski racing community for the support of Kelly and the KBF. Thank you to Killington for the great event. Thank you for all the news channels, organizers, and individuals that helped spread our message.




A message to the ski racing community

Regarding the death of David Poisson


On Monday, Nov. 13, David Poisson, a member of the French national ski team, died in a training accident at Nakiska, Canada. According to public statements by Nakiska representatives and the French Ski Federation, he caught an edge, hit the safety netting, then hit a tree. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Our hearts break for his family, friends, and teammates.


The Kelly Brush Foundation exists to work with the ski racing community to improve and advocate for ski racing safety. It is our position that no ski racer should be seriously injured or die due to a collision with any stationary object such as a tree, lift tower, snowmaking equipment, or other known obstacle. The safety equipment and expertise exist to prevent this cause of serious injury.


His death and some of the reactions from the ski community (see here) make it clear we have a lot of work to do. While injury in this sport will always be a reality, serious injury caused by a collision with an obstacle is preventable.


The Kelly Brush Foundation was founded because Kelly caught an edge in a FIS sanctioned Giant Slalom in 2006 and hit a lift tower that was not protected by safety netting, sustaining a spinal cord injury. Since then, and out of a deep love for the sport, we have worked to change the culture of safety in ski racing. We promote proper safety net installation, help smaller programs purchase netting, and advance a culture of safety.


This is a moment for the entire ski racing community to reflect on safety and for every person and organization to ask what they can do to have a positive impact. That includes sanctioning bodies, national teams, program administrators, officials, coaches, parents and volunteers. And it includes the Kelly Brush Foundation. We will continue to work with everyone to advocate for and improve safety.


We have seen huge progress in the past 12 years since Kelly’s injury, but Poisson’s death has revealed that much still needs to be done.


Join us in this conversation.

#GivingTuesday – Anna’s Reason


For #GivingTuesday, Anna shares what her KBF grant meant to her and why she hopes you will consider giving.


When I broke my back in a rock climbing fall two years ago, the paraplegia was secondary in my mind. The only thing racing through my head as I desperately pleaded with my legs to twitch or flicker, was that I needed them to carry me back to the peaks of the Sierra, up the fissures of Moab’s sandstone walls, across the talus fields and through the gnarled arms of Nevada’s endless seas of sage. The stillness of my feet was merely the quiet, tangible evidence of the lost freedom and ransacked identity that I was mourning. My ability to find escape and peace in my favorite places was lost in an instant. I was devastated and terrified.


I spent the next two months in hospitals, recovering from the shattered bones in my back and wrist. I hated the straight lines of the corners of the room and the constant battery of lights and beeps at all hours of the day and night. I longed to wake up in my tent again and brush this nightmare away with the sleep from my eyes. From my laptop, I escaped my hospital room by devouring photos, trip reports, and climbing route beta – with the new hunger of a caged dog.


Slowly, I stumbled upon the world of adaptive sports. At that time, I didn’t know anyone with a physical disability. Disability was a distant, vague term that I only peripherally associated with the Paralympics every few years; it was a world completely abstract to my own life. I was in awe of these athletes who were climbing, skiing, and mountain biking in a style I’d never seen before; they were getting after it and I was pumped. For the first time after my fall, I found hope for my future. I became fixated by these three-wheeled adaptive mountain bikes custom-made by a guy in Crested Butte. I watched as many videos as I could find of his off-road handcycles crawling over rock and trail. I needed one of these bikes. If my legs couldn’t get me back into the wilds, my arms and this bike would. But I was crestfallen by the price tag. With the mountain of medical bills and therapy costs, getting one was completely beyond my budget.


A year and a half later, with the help of a grant I received from the Kelly Brush Foundation, I was able to fund my own Reactive Adaptations handcycle. I’ve ridden my Bomber almost every weekend since it was delivered to my door in July. I’ve taken it to a mountain bike festival in Targhee, a technical riding camp in Moab, a women’s crush-fest in Sun Valley, and have used it to access climbing at Smith Rock. It’s allowed me to race against other handcyclists, hike with able-bodied friends, and run my cattle dog for miles through the Boise foothills. I can meander through the trees and cliffs again – over hills, rocks, and dirt whenever I fancy. My life is so full of adventure and happiness again that I’m worried someone might notice.


I’m not recounting all of this for sympathy, inspiration, or the ‘thrill’ of reliving the journey of my recovery. I can spend forever telling you how much fun it is to shred a downhill run and lean into a perfectly banked curve, but the only way to truly understand just how much this cycle means to me requires understanding how small and suffocated I felt when I thought the rest of my life would be confined to the smooth limits of asphalt. This cycle is so much more than a bike to me. It’s a ticket to the outdoors and the active life that I feared I had lost forever. With it, I have autonomy again. I have my identity back.


Without the grant I received from KBF, I’d never have been able to afford this cycle myself.   So thank you, KBF and the donors who make it all possible, for giving me the means to reclaim my independence and my life.



In Kelly’s Words – Why I love our partnership with the World Cup


Two young rippers (wearing KBF hats) watching the 2016 World Cup Slalom at Killington

Ski racing was my first love. I loved it from when I was a little kid through racing at Middlebury and still today. Even in the days after my accident (I was injured in a ski race in 2006) I was never resentful of skiing and I never felt like I didn’t want to ski again. I remember laying in my hospital bed in the days after my accident watching ski racing in the Olympics and thinking how awesome it was ski racing was getting national attention.


The original purpose of the Kelly Brush Foundation was to fix a lack of focus on safety in ski racing. It led to my injury and I wanted to change that. For several years, leading the charge to improve ski racing safety was the largest part of our mission.


Over the last 5-6 years, however, we have seen an explosive growth in the demand for our adaptive sports equipment grants. Don’t get me wrong, we do more and spend more to improve ski racing safety every year, but as a percentage of our total mission expenses, it has been eclipsed and then some by adaptive sports. In 2017, for every $5 we spend, $4 will go to the adaptive sports mission and $1 to the ski racing safety mission (see announcements of our Spring Adaptive Sports Cycle, Summer Ski Racing Safety Cycle, Fall Adaptive Sports Cycle).


So when the Killington World Cup local organizing committee approached us about helping them improve safety on the hill during the World Cup, we saw a big opportunity. As our communications become more and more adaptive sports focused, this presented a way to talk about safety to the community it benefits and who has been loyal in our support. By being involved in the World Cup, we will be presenting a model for safety for all of the coaches, officials, and volunteers that will be there that they should seek to replicate as best as possible on their home hills. Even better, the fencing and equipment we’re buying will be used for local Killington and other Vermont races throughout the year.


Our partnership with Killington will also, I hope, be a way to show our core supporters that we are still as focused as ever on ski racing safety. We are really excited to have a big presence at the World Cup both on the hill (look for our logo!), with a booth in the expo village (come say hello!), and in hosting a not-to-be-missed Après (link here to Facebook event). The Après will be a true celebration of eastern ski racing.


So my challenge for you: when you’re at the World Cup, watching it on TV, or seeing pictures online, notice how the hill looks, where the netting is placed, and the protection around every obstacle. Then every time you’re setting a course, watching your kids ski a course, or watching a race, ask yourself: “what did we learn at the World Cup?”


Dylan Update:


Dylan’s has been saying more and more words recently! A few days ago we were outside and our dog brought a stick and dropped it. Dylan pointed to it and said “nick.” I realized that was a word I had never directly said to her or tried to get her to say but she learned it organically and is now saying it all the time. She has so many of these recently and it has been so fun to watch. We also were doing a few words in sign language early on with her and she really took to them. She now almost always says the word with the sign, but will always sign more, eat, please, thank you, and all done.