Eighteen-year-old Lars Veen, a freeskier from Norway, was training for a competition in Mammoth Mountain, Calif., when he overshot a landing during a jump, fractured his spine and was paralyzed from the chest down.
Although more than three years have passed since his accident, Veen is still swamped with the trauma associated with his injury and the bills that come with Rehabilitation and recovery.
Part of Veen’s medical costs have been paid for by Stand Strong Again, an organization that helps extreme athletes who have suffered spinal cord or other neuro-related injuries while performing a sport. So far, it has helped with the medical bills of four athletes.
The organization, based in Salt Lake City, recently obtained nonprofit status. It is working with Northwestern Mutual Financial Network to create a nationwide insurance plan tailored for extreme athletes – most of whom do not have insurance.
“There’s so many people [in action sports] who aren’t covered because they can’t afford it or aren’t educated enough to know they can afford it,” said Shawn McLennan of Salt Lake City, a spokesman for Stand Strong Again.
“We’ve been working with several insurance providers about a large group plan which we could provide very cheaply,” he said.
Now that its nonprofit status is official, the organization also is taking applications from professional, amateur or local athletes who need assistance. Their injuries must be to the spinal cord or be neuro-related and be the result of participation in the athlete’s sport.
“Sports related” accidents are the third-leading cause of spinal cord injuries for people between 15 and 30 years of age, the prime age group of extreme sport athletes, McLennan said.
It is the fourth-leading cause of spinal cord injury overall, according to the National Spinal Injury Cord Statistical Center.
All money raised goes toward a recipient’s medical bills and maintaining his or her standard of living after an accident.
Stand Strong Again was founded two years ago by several of Veen’s friends who raised money to help pay for his medical bills.
The organization has held several fundraisers in Utah.
Eventually, the organization hopes to be able to donate funds to larger organizations that sponsor spinal cord injury research.
* Liesl Goecker contributed to this report.
Stand Strong Again
Stand Strong Again is taking applications from injured professional or amateur athletes who need assistance. For more information, please visit www.standstrongagain.org or call 801-975-9500 Extension 3#.
By Ana Breton
The Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake Tribune