SPINALpedia is excited to introduce our newest Ambassador Garrison Redd from Brooklyn, NY! A man with a plan, he was injured at the age of 17 and hasn’t looked back since. At age 30, he is now a motivational speaker and more, and we know he will help a lot of people by example and through his amazing videos. Read his autobiography and make sure to follow him on social media via the links below.
My name is Garrison Redd and I am a motivational speaker, model, athlete/Paralympian, entrepreneur and most of all an advocate for equal rights. I founded an organization called “TheGarrisonReddProject” with an essential goal of bettering the well-being of disabled individuals. We provide free resources and services in the areas of advice, motivation, inspiration, health and other areas in order to improve the quality of living for disabled individuals.
I played various sports growing up such as boxing, basketball, baseball, and football. In football, I was a standout running back from youth football up until high school. I received various awards and accolades. Going into my senior year at James Madison High School, I was outside on an ordinary Summer night, when I was shot in my back. The bullet burned the nerves surrounding the T12 section of my spine, which left me unable to walk. Instead of feeling sorry for myself or depressed, I decided to triumph through the face of adversity.
Most people would’ve felt that their life was coming to an end, but I felt like my life was just beginning. At 17 years old after this catastrophic injury, I wasn’t discouraged because it made me into a different man. It made me think about the bigger picture. It made me think that I was put here to inspire people of all ages, which I am now on a journey to achieve.
Fast forward to present time, I have a bachelor’s degree in Finance from York College. I’m also currently training for Team USA Para-Powerlifting Team with aspirations of winning a Gold medal at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. I first became involved in para-powerlifting through competing in wheelchair racing. I am an athlete on the club track and field team the New Jersey Navigators. In May of 2018, my coach entered me into a powerlifting meet. I weighed in at 120 pounds and lifted 250 pounds.
At that time I had no prior experience in powerlifting. From there, the performance manager for Team USA contacted me and recommended I compete for a spot on the national team. I also was invited to Colorado Springs Olympic Training Facility to compete in a quick start camp, in which I did very well. I made Team USA in Para-Powerlifting in February of 2019 with a qualifying lift of 273 pounds weighing 126 pounds, in which I was selected to compete in Kazakhstan in July at the Para-Powerlifting World Championships and in Peru in August at the Para-Pan Games.
And I am a seasoned motivational speaker. I did a TEDx talk titled, “Life is like Lemonade,” where I discuss the adversities I faced on my journey to success. Watch it here
Spinal cord injuries have the uncanny ability to change the direction of our lives in an instant, and while this abrupt life-shift carries with it a host of new challenges, Justin Pines, a T6 paraplegic from Denver, Colorado, has decided to approach his new life with hope and a boundless spirit of possibility. “There’s a good God and a purposeful story ahead,” he says.
On April 9, 2016, Justin entered the world of paralysis when he hit a tree in the woods of Squaw Valley, a ski resort in Tahoe, California. Remarkably, within an hour of his injury, he was introduced to an organization that was set to change the direction of his life – the High Fives Foundation.
“I heard about High Fives about an hour after I impacted the tree. One of the ski patrollers responsible for saving my life, as he was cutting off my ski clothes in the snow cat on the way down the mountain, asked me, ‘Have you ever heard of High Fives?’ I gave him my contact and within a couple of days Roy Tuscany – the founder of High Fives – was in my hospital room sharing some of his story and giving me a first glimpse of the incredible support and community I was to find within the High Fives family.”
After his surgery and acute care at Reno’s Renown Hospital, Justin was sent via medical jet to world-renowned Craig Hospital for his inpatient rehabilitation. Through Craig’s celebrated Therapeutic Recreation program, Justin was introduced to sports right away – from hand cycling and swimming to archery, fly fishing and adaptive rock climbing. By the close of his 5 weeks of rehabilitation, Justin had learned the basics of independent living and was able to move into his own apartment in south Denver, opting to relocate rather than move back to his 3rd floor walk up apartment in Brooklyn, NY.
Within a month of leaving the hospital and recommencing life in his new Englewood apartment, Justin was able to return to work at tech company AppNexus, leading software development projects as a Senior Product Manager dialed in from his desk at home. “The ability to bridge back to serious responsibility and the solving of hard problems was a big thing for me,” Justin explains. “In the hospital, you’re initially so dependent on others, it was an important transition to get back to taking ownership and believing again in my own abilities.”
Possibly even more impressive, within 10 weeks of his injury, Justin rode just shy of 100km (62 miles!) as part of Craig Hospital’s annual Pedal for Possible bicycle/hand cycle ride. What’s more, he raised over $25,000 for Craig that day. “Craig had – and continues – to expand my understanding of possibility in my life. That ride was a deeply personal, physical manifestation of just how much I believe in what Craig is about, what the people and ethos of that incredible institution are instilling in so so many lives.”
Justin is a former division 1 cross country & track athlete who discovered an interest for marathoning late in his 20s. “My biggest post-injury goal I accomplished back in 2017: I knew I needed to get back to the starting line of the NYC marathon. Running had always been a central part of my life; after 4 years as a Cross Country and Track athlete at Princeton, I coached the sport for 3 years at Wai’anae High School (during my time teaching in Hawai’i with Teach for America). I had just run NY for the first time in 2015, a handful of months before my injury, and can’t quite describe the feeling crossing the finish line in my racing chair in 2017, 27 minutes ahead of my running time 2 years earlier. It was something I just had to do, and it was deeply gratifying to have done it.”
Justin was also able to return to the slopes just under one year after his injury, initially in Colorado but soon thereafter at Squaw Valley, his old haunt and ground zero for his injury. Returning to snow in a mono ski, Pines explains, has been fulfilling, but has been a process not without its challenges: “Progress in the mono ski has proven to be very difficult,” he says. “That said, the milestones have been deeply rewarding. From the first time on snow, to the first time I was really starting to put turns together, to the first time a few weeks ago where I skied a few blues consecutively without falling and loaded on and off the chair on my own; it’s been hard-earned, but I’m hungry and excited to be skiing fully independently again… And I’m close!”
Many people have been impressed by Justin’s upbeat personality since his injury, which he has affectionately called his “Giddy up” way of looking at life. “I would say the coping – and maybe more importantly the healing process through this kind of loss – well, it’s a lot to try to detail in this short amount of space. It has a lot to do with recognizing the loss and allowing myself to grieve – I think this is important – but yet not letting that grief spiral and become consuming.”
When asked more about where his “Giddy Up” attitude comes from, he references both the intentional relationships and inherent possibility he savors in his life: “I am loved, and there are many, many people in my life whom I love and pour into. That’s huge. And so much also comes not just from recognizing, but from intentionally focusing on the BIGness of the potential and possibility in my life. There’s so much out there that needs doing. Giddy. Up.”
When he’s not working, skiing or training in his hand-cycle or racing chair, Justin enjoys devoting time as an ambassador and organizer for the High Fives Organization. This month he hosted the first ever High Fives Community Meet Up at Denver’s Punch Bowl Social – providing a new means for individuals with SCI to connect & build community. “The goal of these meetups is to provide fairly frequent, low-cost, replicable opportunities to bring together like-minded people who seek community in pursuing sport post-injury and want to live an active lifestyle.” Excitingly, High Fives plans to expand this meet up model to many more cities around the country, so look for one near you soon!