On October 20th, 1995, Travis Roy lined up for his first game with the Boston University Terriers. A promising young star, he had dreams of the NHL someday. However, just 11 seconds into his first shift, everything changed. A freak play led to him falling into the boards, cracking his fourth vertebrae and leaving him paralyzed from the neck down. Warning: the following video is graphic, so watch at your own discretion.
Roy could’ve used this injury as an excuse to just give up. He did for a little while. But, it didn’t take long for that despair to turn into determination. He went back to BU and graduated with a degree from the College of Communication in 2000.. In 1996, he founded the Travis Roy Foundation. Then, in 1998, Roy published a book, Eleven Seconds: A Story of Tragedy, Courage, and Triumph. Roy has inspired countless people and continues to inspire more with each passing day. On the 25th anniversary of his accident, I decided to reflect on a lot of what he’s done.
The Travis Roy Foundation
As I briefly mentioned above, Roy founded the Travis Roy Foundation. The TRF is “dedicated to helping spinal cord injury survivors live more independent and hopeful lives through adaptive equipment grants and funding scientific research focused on solving paralysis-related challenges.” According to the foundation’s website, half of the money raised “goes toward Quality of Life grants to purchase adaptive equipment such as wheelchairs, mattresses, and home and vehicle modifications that help paraplegics and quadriplegics live more independently.” Some of the grants also go towards easing the strain on family and friends. Over the life of the foundation, they’ve also awarded more than $4.7 million in research grants. All in all, they’ve helped over 2,100 quadriplegics and paraplegics since the foundation began in 1996.
The foundation got a huge boost back in 2015 from BU. At a gala honoring the 20th anniversary of the accident at , they raised $1 million for the foundation, which to that date had raised around $5 million total. Plus, Roy was surprised with a “$2.5 million gift from a group of anonymous donors that will establish the Travis M. Roy Professorship in Rehabilitation Sciences at Sargent and provide the foundation with office space on campus and a $50,000 annual stipend towards staffing for the next 10 years.” This took what was then a small foundation and gave it the ability to grow even further. The Travis Roy Foundation has already improved the lives of thousands of people, and will only continue to help more as it keeps growing.
Roy Also Speaks and Writes About His Story
Another way Roy continues to help people is by traveling around the country speaking at college, high schools, and companies. He shares his story in hopes of inspiring others to find their purpose in life and find their values. In an interview, he once said that he’s “learned that people who know themselves the best are generally the most successful. I’m trying to get high school and college students to be thinking about that.”
As I briefly mentioned above, Roy’s also published a book about his life. It’s called Eleven Seconds: A Story of Tragedy, Courage, and Triumph. I highly recommend the book, as while hard to read at times, it’s very inspiring. You can purchase it here. In addition to this, shortly after the Boston Marathon bombings, Roy penned a powerful piece in which he discusses what it was like for him after his injury. I strongly suggest that you give that a read as well.
Roy Has Been Honored By Multiple Places
Philantrophic efforts aside, Travis Roy has been honored by two of his alma maters, thus helping ensure he will never be forgotten. He attended North Yarmouth Academy in North Yarmouth, Maine for just one year, but they’ve been amazing in helping carry on his legacy. Their arena is named after him (Travis Roy Arena), and his jersey has been retired by the school. It resides both in the rafters and a display case explaining his legacy. They also hold events where the proceeds are donated to his foundation. The Casco Bay Hockey Association, which is a youth league in the area, has also held events in the past in conjunction with NYA where they raise money for his foundation.
In addition to NYA doing things, BU has also retired his number 24. He’s one of just two people to have a number retired by the university. They also held that gala in 2015 where they raised money for his foundation and honored his legacy. That night, they also announced a professorship in their Sargent College in support of him. There was another one planned for this year, but it was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Travis Roy’s Legacy Will Live on Forever
In short, Travis Roy’s story is one of tragedy, but what he’s done since is beyond inspiring. It should be taken as a cautionary tale that freak things happen and you are not invincible, but also that just because something gets in the way of your future plans doesn’t mean your life is over. It actually means the opposite. I could never do everything he’s done true justice, so please, if you want to know more, check out all the articles I’ve linked, and look up more. As a hockey player that grew up about 20 minutes from where he did, Roy is someone I’ve looked up to ever since I was little. His strength and desire to help others is so inspiring, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
-Lydia Murray (@lydia_murray12)
Featured image courtesy of Travis Roy via whsbradford.org
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