“You can sit here at the train station and watch life go by,” said Lee Roy, father of promising Boston University freshman hockey player, “or you can get on the train and see where it’s going to take you. There is still a life to be lived.” Lee Roy uttered these words to his son a few months after Travis’ devastating spinal cord injury. October 20, 1995, a mere 11 seconds into his first shift on the ice, Travis fell head first into the boards, cracking his fourth vertebra and paralyzing him from the neck down.
The Travis Roy Cup is played every year between St. Sebastian’s School and Tabor Academy to honor Travis, a 1995 Tabor Academy graduate, and his contributions to prep school hockey. The competition raises money for the Travis Roy Foundation, which is dedicated to enhancing the lives of individuals with spinal cord injuries and their families. To date, Travis’ foundation has collected over $7 million for research and adaptive equipment for those suffering from spinal cord injuries.
This hockey game tradition began twenty years ago when St. Sebastian’s Business Manager, Jack Doherty ’62, approached Tabor Academy with an idea. “I personally felt a closeness to Travis,” commented Doherty, “I was there the night it happened […] eleven seconds into the game, Travis hit the boards.” Having personally witnessed this devastating event, Jack Doherty wanted to connect more with Travis. St. Sebastian’s and Tabor were already set to face off in the 1996-1997 season, so Jack proposed sponsoring the game in honor of Travis and donating the proceeds to his foundation. Through the years, Travis has always attended the annual contest. “It’s been a great game, and it’s been great to get to know Travis. He’s a remarkable young man,” concluded Doherty.
Eleven Seconds: A Story of Tragedy, Courage & Triumph by Travis Roy, chronicles Travis’ amazing story. Assisted by gifted Sports Illustrated writer, E.M. Swift, the book elaborates on Travis’ journey from star athlete to survivor of a freak accident, and showcases how he overcame all odds to redefine his life and to help others in need. On Monday, September 12, 2011, Travis spoke to the St. Sebastian’s community, as Eleven Seconds, had been chosen as the first-ever all school read. Travis had spoken at St. Sebastian’s before, but this time, he recounted the process of writing his book and of what his life was like post-injury. He commented on the loneliness he felt after returning to Boston University and how he ultimately committed to being more outgoing and social.
Travis took his father’s advice and “boarded the train.” His story features tragedy and loss, but it is also one of grit, mental toughness, and resiliency. Travis not only heeded his father’s words, but chooses to live them each and every day. Travis is challenged to overcome adversity daily, but he knows he is not alone. “I have great family, I have good friends,” says Travis. “When you have a support network like that, it just makes dealing with a spinal cord injury so much easier.”
Over the last 20 years, The Travis Roy Foundation has helped many individuals bear the burden of a spinal cord injury. “I have found some purpose which has given my life meaning and I’m looking to touch more people’s lives, provide more grants, fund more research,” said Travis. “It’s a small part, but I would like to be a part of ending paralysis as we know it.”
Travis Roy will be returning to St. Sebastian’s to speak on Tuesday, January 31, and the puck drops at the Henry T. Lane Rink at 3:15pm on Saturday, February 4, for the 21st Annual Travis Roy Cup.