Travis Roy has always set goals for himself.
Growing up the son of a rink manager in Yarmouth, Maine, Roy might as well have been born with a hockey stick in his hand. As a prep school star, he dreamed of skating for a Division I college en route to a long career on the ice.
On Oct. 20, 1995, his dream came true … for 11 seconds.
On the first play of his first shift of his first game in a Boston University uniform, the 20-year-old freshman whiffed on a check and fell awkwardly into the boards. Roy shattered his fourth vertebra, leaving him a quadriplegic.
Although his life took a turn down a different path that night, Roy has emerged from the accident with a new set of goals. He knows he will likely never skate again, but with the help of advances in medical research, he hopes that he, and others with spinal cord injuries, may some day walk again.
Now 34, Roy has found a new living as a motivational speaker and a new purpose as an advocate for people living with spinal cord injuries and other disabilities.
“It’s not the life I chose, but I feel good about what I’m doing with my life,” he said.
Since 1997, his nonprofit Travis Roy Foundation has raised more than $3 million for spinal cord injury research and care.
“I’m really proud of that. We’ve really touched a lot of people’s lives,” he said. “I think the research is coming to fruition. We’re getting there. Unfortunately, it’s a matter of time and more so money.”
“It’s made living with this condition a lot easier knowing that there’s a chance and a belief that there will be significant advancements,” he added. “Hopefully it can help me walk, if not, make me even more independent. That would be a dream come true.”
Roy, who lives in Boston, said he occasionally hears from people who have recently gone through a spinal cord injury or have a loved one who has gone through such an injury.
“It turns my stomach to know that someone else and their family is having to go through this. It is a nightmare — there’s no way around it. The first year is extremely challenging,” he said.
Thinking back to the first year after his accident, Roy said he realizes how far he has come and how fortunate he is to have strong personal and financial support.
“It also makes me realize exactly why we’ve got the Travis Roy Foundation,” he said.
Roy will share his personal story and the life lessons he has learned on Tuesday, Sept. 22, from 6 to 7 p.m. in the Donaldson Auditorium at the Lincoln School on Ballfield Road in Lincoln. Earlier in the day, Roy will speak to Lincoln and Hanscom middle school students.
“Probably one of my favorite audiences is … students,” he said. “I’m looking forward to coming out to Lincoln and speaking to students, and it will be fun to speak with the parents as well.”
For Roy, values are a big part of his message, especially when speaking to students. Roy urges his young listeners to take pride in everything they do, to not cut corners, and to make good decisions, as well as to recognize the importance of respect and love in life.
In speaking to older audiences, Roy said the focus is more on facing life’s challenges.
“In life, there are times that we choose our challenges and we might set our goals, and there are other times when the challenges simply choose us,” he said. “It’s really what we do in the face of those challenges that defines who we are and who we will become.”
The speaking engagement is presented by the Lincoln Cultural Council with sponsorship from the Friends of the Lincoln Library and the Lincoln School PTA. It has received funding from these groups as well as via grants from the Lincoln School Foundation and the Lincoln Cultural Council, a local agency, which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.
By Ben Aaronson/Staff Writer
Wicked Local Lincoln