Spend my life after the accident helping others with spinal cord injuries and funding research
Exactly 25 years from the day his life was drastically changed 11 seconds after his debut shift for the Boston University hockey team, Travis Roy (COM’00, Hon.’16) , who was paralyzed from the neck down during that match, died on Thursday. He is 45 years old.
A family spokesman said Roy died of a quadriplegic complication for 25 years.
Keith Vanorden, who is married to Tobi, Roy’s sister, said: “He doesn’t want to ignore anyone, he approaches everything with love and gratitude. “He said if his passing inspired others and motivated others to support the Travis Roy Foundation, then it was a great way to remember him.”
Vanorden says Roy, who split his time between Boston and Vermont, was in Vermont when he died, with his family next to him. “He is a gift to us. A gift for everyone for 25 years. There was a time when you did things with him and those were the best hours of your day. You never know all the efforts that went into his chair. But when you’re with him, it’s a presence unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. ”
Roy’s life after the match on October 20, 1995, was not only determined in a single moment but more about his strong desire to live a full and meaningful life by helping support similarly injured people. His Travis Roy Foundation, founded in 1996, has helped more than 2,100 patients with extremities and hemiplegia, and awarded nearly $ 5 million in funding for spinal research, according to the website.
“With a heavy heart, we mourn the departure of Travis Roy,” BU Athletics said in a statement. “His story is a model of inspiration and courage, and he is a role model and a hero for so many people. Travis’s work and dedication to helping spinal cord injury survivors are not surprising. His legacy will last forever, not only in the Boston University community, but with the countless lives he has affected across the country. Our sincere thoughts are with his wonderful family as well as his vast group of friends and supportive colleagues. “
Five years ago, Roy was held at a gala dinner at BU’s Agganis Arena and Boston City, where October 20 was declared “Travis Roy Day”. Vanorden says that Roy’s relationship with BU remains strong. “It has always been one of the most important places for him.”
On the 20th anniversary, Roy appeared on ESPN, and Boston Bruins signed him for a date. Anonymous donors awarded $ 2.5 million to establish the Travis M. Roy Professor Scholarship at Sargent University. More recently, Roy received an Honorary Doctorate degree in Humane Correspondence at BU’s 2016 Commencement.
“Twenty years ago tonight, I lived Division I’s hockey dream,” Roy said at the Agganis gala. “The 11 seconds at the Walter Brown Arena playing for Boston University were the best 11 seconds of my life.” He added that evening, “My work in the Travis Roy Foundation with my friends and family has helped me create a very rich, very worth living life. I feel loved. “
Roy, a freshman or older, was just in time to stand on the ice when he stabbed his head straight into the plank, breaking the fourth and fifth neck vertebrae. It severely damaged his spinal cord and left him paralyzed from the neck down. While in the intensive care unit, assisted with ventilator breathing, he often wondered if his life was worth living because he didn’t want to be a burden on his parents, he said.
His foundation became the work of his life.
“Everyone’s paralyzed wish is that one day their wheelchairs will no longer be needed,” said the website’s mission. “For researchers and scientists, the most important question is fundamental: How can an injured spinal cord regenerate and reconnect ‘wires’ from the brain to the muscles and nerves. experience all over the body? Researchers are working tirelessly on various fronts to tackle the challenges associated with paralysis, but this research is costly and the cure may be many years away. The more money we can raise, the sooner we will find a cure ”.
One of the thousands of small beneficiaries of the Travis Roy Foundation is Bryce Allard. In 2018, he suffered a spinal cord injury while playing in Montana during the Grand Sky Games. On Thursday at his home, Allard said Roy’s departure was “shocking news”, but he was grateful for the organization’s help to him after his injury. “They helped me get a new bed,” he said. “Pressure sores are very common and the bed does not allow pressure points to be produced and it really helps me. It is huge for me. It has helped improve my life. My living conditions. ”
When donations to the fund come from all over the country, Roy often tells stories about the givers, from the boy who sent him $ 7.23 after opening the piggy bank to the already married couple. take his honeymoon to send him $ 5,000 instead.
In a profile for the 20th anniversary of his injury, Bostonia wrote, “Roy heard these stories during his 50-hour work week with the Travis Roy Foundation. When it starts, it may provide 5 or 6 subsidies a year; today, it provides 150 subsidies a year, home modifications so that a 17-year-old boy, paralyzed in an auto accident, can return home, and installs a lift so that a father falls From the ladder you can reach your second floor. go home to put the children in bed. “
But even as Roy has been of great help in his life, he admits there were some darker moments. Just a week ago, in an interview with Boston Globe As the 25th anniversary approached, Roy told Kevin Cullen of the paper, “Sometimes I can be in the mood and maybe wish the moment didn’t happen, and I wonder what life would be like. But that’s part of who I am. “
But as Cullen wrote in his column, Roy never wanted anyone to feel sorry for him: “I’m 45 years old. I know that young. But I feel old. There are things that set you apart from being in a wheelchair for 25 years. But I was very lucky, and everyone who helped me was still with me. There are people in more difficult situations than I am, and I want to help them ”.
In addition to his sister, Roy is survived by his father, Lee and mother Brenda, as well as four granddaughters and nephews.
On Twitter, fans, players, celebrities and others reacted quickly to the sad news. BU Dog Pound tweeted:
Rest in peace, Travis Roy. You are an inspiration to many people in the BU community and beyond. You will be missed out very much, but the legacy of your kindness, generosity and perseverance will remain with us forever.
Amy Laskowski also contributed to this story.
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