SOUTH OGDEN, Utah (ABC4) – A South Ogden teen’s positive attitude continues to ripple throughout his community months after a life-altering ski accident. On May 13, local artists will amplify that positivity by banding together to host a benefit concert for the Togisala family.
A young neighbor girl yells “Hi Max!” from across the street. Max Togisala waves to her in response. This happened more than once in the hour ABC4 spent with the family in the front yard of the family home. Max just appears happy and that may be why he is so well-liked by his neighbors, and the community as a whole.
“My family for sure, they keep me motivated,” Max tells ABC4 when asked why he’s so cheerful. “And I just have a positive attitude, really, all my life.”
All those who know him well will agree with his statement. “He’s the one who knows how to get everybody in the family laughing and he just always likes to make light of every situation,” says Max’s mom Amber.
The optimistic, happy and funny spirit in Max hasn’t changed even though almost every other aspect of his life has in the last two months.
In February, Max was in a skiing accident in Idaho. Amber says he suffered a T12 spinal cord injury because of that accident. This injury caused paralysis in Max’s legs. While the injury is bad, Amber says it could have been so much worse. She tells ABC4 all of Max’s skiing gear broke because of the accident and his helmet was not only dented but had a large crack in it. Max didn’t sustain any head trauma.
Max recently returned home from the hospital. His family is overwhelmed and grateful for all the help the community has offered. The community helped build a ramp leading into the front door and helped build an addition to the house right off the main living space. It is a bedroom for Max. His old room was upstairs and not accessible.
Whether it’s playing ping pong, golf, getting in the car, or driving, Max is learning to do things a little differently than he used to. “The things that I used to do, they’re a lot more difficult and they just take longer to do, so that was a little bit hard or challenging to get used to.” However, he doesn’t dwell on what’s challenging, but rather on the progress he’s making. “I like to progress and being successful in learning these things is really awesome to me. I find enjoyment in that.”
The 18-year-old will graduate from high school. He says, “I’m so excited.” After graduation, he has big plans. He says he’s going to “finish up my therapy this summer and then hopefully be ready for school in the fall.”
He plans on attending Weber State University to study engineering. He did have a full-ride scholarship to an out-of-state college to play golf. While that may not be happening now, he says he may use what he learns in school to design a wheelchair that allows for more range of motion so he can keep playing the game he loves.
Although his life is moving in a different direction than expected, Max says he’s the happiest he’s ever been, and that positive outlook is blessing those around him. “I know that through this trial that Max has been going through, my faith has blossomed and grown leaps and bounds,” adds Amber.
The benefit concert for the Togisala family will be held at Bonneville High School on May 13 at 7 p.m. It is being hosted by a group called Vocalocity. The concert will feature the Greg Simpson Band, Vocalocity A Cappella, and American Idol contestants Ammon and Liahona Olayan. Tickets are $15 at maxtogisala.eventbrite.com
This isn’t the first time the group has hosted a benefit concert. Amanda Tesch with the band says, “We planned a benefit concert for my niece Sarah Frei in 2020 after she became paralyzed and lost her legs in an accident.” Tesch continues, “It was a special experience for us to see the community come together to support her, and to realize that the “benefit” concert didn’t just benefit Sarah, it truly benefitted everyone who participated.”
Tesch says, “When we heard about Max and his paralysis, we knew we wanted to share that same experience with his family and community. After watching Sarah, someone we love and care about, work through a tragedy like this, it has given us the gift of sympathy to know what other families experience when they have loss of ability.”
“Sarah and Max have both made it look so easy but being behind the scenes I know that it really isn’t easy. It’s actually really hard.”
“This benefit concert isn’t just to raise money for the family, although that is the main goal. This concert is a rally for Max from the community. To show the family that we support them, we see them, and we are here for them, especially when life is the hardest.”