Everyone has had moments when life threatens to overwhelm them. It’s moments like that when we should remember people like Travis Roy.

Roy, a Maine native who died Oct. 29, 25 years and a week after a fluke hockey injury left him paralyzed from the neck down, proved the strength of the human spirit through his last quarter century. Despite being dealt an unfathomable blow, he not only went on but thrived, helping others find the light in devastating circumstances.

Until Oct. 20, 1995, Roy’s life had centered around the ice rink. He was skating at 20 months old and playing hockey at 3. His dad, a former hockey star himself, managed the Cumberland County Civic Center, and Roy spent his early years poking around Maine Mariners games.

Then came stardom in travel leagues and at North Yarmouth Academy. He was heavily recruited coming out of high school, and chose Boston University, the defending national champion.

But just 11 seconds into his first collegiate shift, that life came to an end. Heading fast into the corner, Roy brushed against another player and fell, going head first into the boards. His fourth vertebrae was crushed. Roy would never walk again, and would only regain limited use of his hands.

If Roy felt sorry for himself – and who wouldn’t in those circumstances – he didn’t dwell on it for long. He was back at classes at BU within a year, and in 1997 he established the Travis Roy Foundation to help spinal cord injury survivors such as himself, and to fund research for a cure.

After he graduated from BU, Roy really threw himself into the foundation’s work. The foundation has now helped more than 2,100 quadriplegics and paraplegics and awarded nearly $5 million in grants toward research.

Roy’s influence can also be seen in Maine through the sport that fueled his childhood dreams – and which he continued to love after his injury. The ice rink at NYA, where his dad was the manager for many years, was named in his honor in 1998, and the Travis Roy Award goes each year to the top senior in Class A boys’ hockey.

But his real legacy is how he lived his life following the injury. His resilience and positive attitude provided a model for everyone – “Every day I roll out onto this deck, into the sunlight, I think how fortunate I am,” he told the Boston Globe in 1995.

But he also found purpose in his life-altering injury. Not only did he fight every day, seemingly with a smile on his face, to establish his own life under his new circumstances, he worked so that others could do the same.

He not only showed that Travis Roy could push through the greatest adversity, but also that we all have that within us.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: