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‘Higher Ground Offers Inclusion’
A team featuring Vinny Aicale, Bryan Haynes, Mike Yuras and George Reed play around a course that features tidbits about those who have benefitted from Higher Ground programs.
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Tuesday, October 3, 2023


Sun Valley firefighters unfurled a 30-foot American flag from a fire ladder that stretched into the royal blue fall sky as high school student Diesel Ward sang the National Anthem.

And, with that, the inaugural Higher Ground Invitational golf tournament got underway on the rolling green fairways of Sun Valley Resort’s Trail Creek course.

Friday’s golf tourney was co-chaired by Thomas Mistele and Doyle Rundell, who started a Higher Ground golf camp for veterans during the COVID pandemic.

A team featuring Vinny Aicale, Bryan Haynes, Mike Yuras and George Reed play around a course that features tidbits about those who have benefitted from Higher Ground programs.

Higher Ground’s Executive Director Kate Dobbie said that Higher Ground had been trying to stage a golf tourney for three years as a way to support not only the new golf initiative but all of Higher Ground’s programs.

“We looked at different locations, including Stanford. But Sun Valley Resort stepped up to support us, and it’s been great,” she said. “We sold out with 92 players on 23 teams of four, and multiple people have already asked to sign up for next year. Many of the golfers have never been involved with Higher Ground before so this is a chance for them to learn about us.”

Part of the goal of the invitational was to support Higher Ground’s programs for veterans and first responders. That includes helping them purchase bikes, kayaks and gym memberships to continue staying active after they attend a Higher Ground camp.

Several auction items went toward that goal, including a Sun Valley season golf pass with golf cart rental,  golf for two at Pebble Beach and a two-night stay at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas with dinner at Bobby Flay’s Amalfi and two tickets to “Absinthe.”

Adam Quarles drives a ball while Carson Mooney looks on.

Higher Ground participant Paul Robinson contributed a 9-foot red, white and blue surfboard with the Higher Ground logo that he had built at his shop in Hailey. It was, he said, the 6,421st surfboard he has made since 1971. And, while he’s now made 6,998, few others have been so meaningful.

Robinson came to Sun Valley in 1975 from La Jolla, Calif., to ski race under the tutelage of Kenny Corrock. But a gas explosion left him with burns over 75 percent of his body. Higher Ground helped him get back on skis and provided him the opportunity to do other sports, as well.

“This whole organization changed my life,” he said. “I have the ability to facilitate that. There’s nothing bigger than that.”

Another who has benefitted from Higher Ground’s therapeutic recreation programs is Dr. Jonathan Meyer, the medical director of rehabilitation services for the Magic Valley Medical Center in Twin Falls.

Dr. Jonathon Meyer, medical director of rehabilitation services for St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center, shares how Higher Ground helped him overcome his spinal cord injury to ski again.

Meyer suffered a spinal cord injury as a passenger in a truck that ran off the road, flipped a few times and hit a telephone pole. Through extensive rehab, he was able to get out of his wheelchair, but his gait is sometimes unsteady.

After moving to Idaho in 2009, Meyer said he began bringing his two children to Sun Valley’s Dollar Mountain to learn to ski. He reveled in watching them from the patio of Carol’s Dollar Mountain Lodge. But, as they got older and graduated to Baldy, he began feeling left out.

“I’d wait at the bottom for three and a half hours. And, when they came down, they were done.” He recounted.

Sun Valley Paralympic ski medalist Muffy Davis, a patient of Meyer’s, encouraged him to learn to ski with Higher Ground’s help.

Daniel Hollis sinks a put as part of a team that includes Adam Quarles, Hunter Storey and Carson Mooney.

“I said, ‘I’ve had one spinal injury. I don’t need another.’ Then I realized: If I didn’t get involved, I was going to miss out in a big way.”

He felt a little conspicuous as he rode the Magic Carpet with 3-year-olds during his first lesson. But within four lessons he was able to ski with his children on Bald Mountain.

“Before, I felt like ‘I live near mountains but don’t ski.’ Now, I feel like I belong. Now, when I have a patient for whom we’ve done everything we can medically, I say, ‘Hey, there’s Higher Ground.’ When you’re not included in things, you don’t feel self-worth. Higher Ground offers inclusion.”

Dobbie said Higher Ground has been busier than ever this year, serving 1,100 participants in 20,000 program hours. One of things that sets program apart, she added, is the inclusion of families of veterans and first responders in programs.

“If we don’t include families, we’re not having the impact we should have,” said Dobbie. “And we do research to prove that what we do works.”

Sherry Rundell noted that participants in Friday’s golf tournament looked like kids in a candy shop as they headed out the course following the National Anthem.

“We played well and the weather was beautiful,” enthused Adam Quarles as golfers passed around truffle fries at the Clubhouse following the tourney. “This is an amazing event, and it’s important to give back.”

“It’s a good addition,” said golfer Paul Willis. “Higher Ground had a fundraiser on snow last winter. This is a summer good way to raise funds during summer.”


1: Doyle Rundell, Greg Hartman, Zach Jonas and Michael Horowitz

2: Hayes MacArthur, Andy Jones, John Colgate and Chris Larocca

3: Patrick Buchanan, Christy Johnsen, Eric Stumpner and Daniel Drage


1: Daniel Hollis, Adam Quarles, Hunter Storey and Carson Mooney

2: Dave Hennessey, Whit Atkinson, Neil Bradshaw and Steve Serratore

3: Mike Yuras, Vince Aicale, George Reed and Brian Haynes


Jolie Dunn and Dave Hennessey


Matt Walker and Heather Witmer


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