BURLINGTON, Vt. – Condolences continue to pour in from across the nation as friends, family and the hockey community mourn the death of Travis Roy, a former Boston University hockey player who dedicated his life to helping survivors of spinal cord injuries.
As a 20 year-old freshman, Roy’s life was forever changed 11 seconds into his first shift of the Terriers’ 1995-96 season. He crashed headfirst into the boards after checking an opponent, and the collision left him a quadriplegic.
Although Roy’s promising career as a hockey player came to a tragic and abrupt halt, his second act was only beginning.
In 1997, he launched the Travis Roy Foundation to help spinal cord injury survivors live more independent and hopeful lives through adaptive equipment grants and funding scientific research.
The foundation has since raised over $9 million, in large part due to the relentless positivity and unwavering perseverence of its namesake.
“You might only get to spend an hour with Trav some days, and it was the best hour of your day,” said Roy’s brother-in-law Keith Vanorden. “What you didn’t see is all the time, effort and commitment that he had to get up and get into his chair. He’d come in and just light the room.”
Vanorden said Roy had the gift of perspective, and his positive attitude made it hard to worry about anything around him. He channeled those traits into the Travis Roy Foundation, often taking time to help individual families in addition to the larger fundraising work of the charity.
“Very quietly, he would talk with the family and help them get connected with the right hospitals,” Vanorden said. “He would help them understand what the next few months might be like… I think he was an inspiration to people in some of those darkest hours.”
Roy once recalled that the first 20 years of his life were “full of passion,” while the years following his injury were “full of purpose.” It was a different level of determination, and one that will always be remembered within the hockey community.
The news of his passing had hockey legends like Ray Borque and Cam Neely paying their respects:
“They can see themselves in Trav,” Vanorden said. “They can see the excellence, but more, they’re just so inspired by what he was able to do on the other side of that injury.”
In the weeks preceding Roy’s passing, he told family that he wants everyone to know how grateful he was for their support. He also expressed a desire for his mission of raising funds and hope for those living with spinal cord injuries to continue.
Fortunately, he spent his life nurturing a foundation with the power to do that.
“The foundation will continue,” Vanorden said. “We’re kind of celebrating the anniversary of his accident and the anniversary of the foundation. We had a big year planned, and we continue to want to see that through in his memory.”
The family has noticed that donations to the Travis Roy Foundation have increased, with many people donating $24 in honor of Roy’s jersey number at Boston University.
Roy passed away at UVM Medical Center due to complications from a recent surgery. He was 45.