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Travis Roy died Thursday at the age of 45. If you are unaware of Roy and his story, it started with a heartbreaking moment in a famed college hockey rink which then led to so many inspirational moments in so many different and more important settings.
It also led to him being a hero.
Roy was one of those good guys that our society was fortunate to have. A man whose simple message over the years is something we should all take to heart now: “Do the best with what you have and don’t dwell on your misfortune.”
Roy grew up playing hockey in Maine and later went to high school at a private school in Massachusetts in the early 1990s. Back then in that region it was every young hockey player’s dream to play for Boston University and its legendary coach Jack Park. That program was the best in the city, winning the Beanpot just about every year and always being in contention for NCAA national championships.
Roy got to live that dream as he put on BU’s red and white uniform and skated out on the ice at the legendary Walter Brown Arena on Oct. 20, 1995. But then just 11 seconds into his first game his whole life changed when he crashed into the boards and cracked his fourth vertebra, which left him a quadriplegic.
Over time Roy was able to push forward in his life and make a difference, not on a hockey rink but in the lives of strangers who were spinal cord injury survivors.
In 1997 Roy founded the Travis Roy Foundation, which over the years raised over $9 million dollars that helped survivors with equipment they needed for their day-to-day lives and also helped fund research that could help so many more people going forward.
He also inspired so many survivors by just being there for them when they needed someone to be there for them. Former Princeton hockey player Denna Laing, who suffered a similar spinal injury during a game, was one of those people.
“Travis did so many little things and big things for so many people. This is gutting, really truly sad. Travis visited me when I was still in the hospital and has continued to be a big support in my recovery. Wow. #ThankYouTravis.”
Every summer in Vermont, friends and family from all over the country gathered in large numbers for a legendary fundraising wiffleball tournament that not only raised money for the foundation, but gave Roy the chance to laugh and have fun with those who loved him.
That love from his friends and family is what got him through the tough times after the accident and allowed him to see his future. He said this in story back in 2015:
“Once I decided I did want to live, I realized I could live according to the same values that made me successful before my accident,” he said. “My work on the Travis Roy Foundation alongside my friends and family has helped me create a life that is very rich, very much worth living… I feel so loved. I realize that my work is my new dream, and that’s what fuels me.”
The Boston Bruins signed Roy to a one-day contract on Oct. 20th, 2015, the 20th anniversary of his accident, and that night he dropped the ceremonial puck in front of a roaring crowd at the Boston Garden.
BU, which he graduated from in 2000, retired his No. 24.
The two high schools he attended named their rinks after him.
Roy, who died from complications from a procedure he needed to maintain his quality of life, was loved by so many people and will be deeply missed. His legacy will live on forever, though.
As well his message.
“Do the best with what you have and don’t dwell on your misfortune.”