words and photos: Mary T. Walsh

On Friday, May 19, Save A Brain celebrated their three-year anniversary with Right Brain, a get-together in Denver at the Burton flagship store. Located in the heart of the RiNo Arts District, the Burton store’s two-tiered rooftop was the perfect spot for friends to reunite, catch up about the past season, enjoy Fat Tire coolies (thank you Tyler, Taylor, and Decker!) and Gozney pizza (expertly crafted by Royal, Mark, and the Burton crew), and support the work of Save A Brain.

Kelsey Boyer, Micah Anderson, Melissa Riitano, Morgan Scibetta–the crew behind Save A Brain–were all in town for the event, which built on the success of the previous year when Right Brain came to Denver for the first time. In addition to bringing folks together to kick off the weekend in a fun way, Right Brain is an annual fundraiser to support the efforts of SAB. In only three years, Save A Brain has gained impactful traction in snowboarding and the greater action sports world. Kelsey Boyer, the non-profit’s founder, created the organization in response to a need for education, resources, and support for TBI survivors that she saw a lack of when recovering and rehabbing a brain injury she sustained snowboarding. Along with Morgan, Micah, and Melissa, Kelsey has been working diligently since 2020 to not only create and share resources, but open up discussion around the deep connections between brain health, mental health, and physical well-being.

Save A Brain’s reach has been snowballing the past few years. The Happy Helmets program donates helmets to a different organization every month. SAB-approved helmet checks have been instituted at top-level contests like Dew Tour. And resorts, brands, and events have partnered with Save A Brain to further increase awareness and help athletes, friends, and families get the information and support they need when dealing not only with head injury, but with head injury prevention and overall brain health.

Most recently, Save A Brain introduced Blair the Brain, an animated character who breaks down complex and often intimidating topics to viewers, further pushing the bar on awareness and education that is instrumental in action sports and beyond.

So, to say that there was a lot to celebrate for Save A Brain’s third anniversary would be an understatement–and the best kind of celebration is support and fundraising so the non-profit’s momentum can continue and grow. To this end, a few dozen photographers and artists donated photos and illustrations for a silent auction (pro tip: this is annually one of the best places to score incredible images and artwork from some of snowboarding’s most lauded photogs). Tom Monterosso, Dean Blotto Gray, Mike Yoshida, Chad Chomlack, Gill Montgomery, Morgan Scibetta, Gabe L’Heureux, Mirae Campbell, and many more had images up for auction. Fat Tire doubled down with support and pledged to match up to $5000 of donations from the evening. With such a generous sum on the line, the bidding was hot!

Save A Brain also held a raffle with tons of prizes from Burton, anon, Skullcandy, and more. Fat Tire’s Decker Rush resided over the proceedings, raffling off a ton of gear and capping things off with a brand new Burton Family Tree Hometown Hero.

Because Save A Brain is centered on education, awareness, and fostering discussion about important but often difficult topics, they also presented a panel discussion featuring two experienced, knowledgeable, and progressive individuals: Noah Wagner, a MS, LAT, ATC, and member of the US Ski and Snowboard Medical Pool, as well as a staff member at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics in Summit County and “Zen” Jen Herman, a LMT and injury rehab specialist with a focus in the neurological aspects of healing soft tissue and injury who has worked with professional athletes for fourteen years and is a member of the Save A Brain board of directors.

During the panel, Jen and Noah shared their experience working with athletes–from pro to weekend warrior–on injury prevention and recovery, and the link between body and brain. Just a few of the takeaways they shared:

  • Start doing yoga today, if it is not already something you do.
  • Dry needling is a great tool for recovery, rehabilitation, and overall well-being.
  • Communication with friends and family members who may have sustained concussions is key. If you notice any behavior that is off with a friend or family member, help them to get checked out by a medical professional.
  • Mental well-being is linked to our physical well-being and ability to be active. Taking care of both is important.

In addition to all of the insight that Noah and Jen shared, listening to different practitioners explain their perspective on brain injury and soft tissue injury reinforced the variety of treatments and resources available to athletes of all levels.

The conversation drifted past sunset, where Kelsey stepped in to announce that the silent auction was about to close and it was time to secure your bids.

“Our Denver three-year anniversary, Right Brain event, had me absolutely speechless. I took the past week to really soak up all of the love and fill my cup,” said Kelsey. “You never know what the future holds and all we can do is keep pushing forward; we went in with that mentality at the beginning and here we are, three years later. It’s more than I could ever have expected and I hope we can keep surpassing our expectations every year. We celebrated surrounded by the community, and seeing a community believe in you truly lights a fire to believe in yourself. We have had a few events, but man, there was something so special about this one will forever be imprinted in my brain.”

As nighttime settled over Denver, Right Brain party-goers grabbed their winning photos and headed to the afterparty, starting off the weekend by supporting Save A Brain, an organization making bigger and bigger waves each year in snowboarding–and beyond.

Huge thanks to Josh Fisher, Royal White, Z Boy, and the entire Burton crew; Tyler McCleod, Taylor Boyd, and Decker Rush from Fat Tire; Kyle Kennedy at Gozney; and the crew at anon for supporting Right Brain, raising money for Save A Brain, and bringing the community together.

To learn more about Save A Brain, follow @saveabrain on Instagram and go to Saveabraininc.com.