As a final tribute, the Travis Roy Foundation will honor the founder’s legacy

Travis Roy, on the patio of his home on Lake Champlain in Colchester, Vermont. Roy, who was paralyzed from the neck down in his first college hockey game in 1995, has dedicated his life to advocating for people with spinal cord injuries. He died on October 29, 2020 following surgery. Kevin Cullen/Boston Globe

The Travis Roy Foundation is closing its doors, not without a final tribute to its founder and namesake.

Maine native Travis Roy suffered a spinal cord injury when he fell headfirst into the boards during the opening seconds of his first game as a freshman hockey player at Boston University in 1995. Paralyzed from the neck down, he devoted the rest of his life to advocacy, supporting research and raising funds to help others with spinal cord injuries.

Roy died on October 29, 2020, at age 45, following surgery. Last year, the non-profit organization he started announced that it would soon cease operations, as he had previously requested.

Now, as the foundation draws to a close, it will make major gifts to two of the nation’s leading spinal cord injury treatment sites: Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston and the Shepherd Center in Atlanta. The Boston Globe reported the donations will total $4 million, and Roy’s family and the foundation will share details of the endowments on Friday, a day before the second anniversary of his death.

“Both are renowned for their care and rehabilitation of spinal cord injury survivors and respected for their field research,” the foundation published on Facebook. “Through these endowments, Travis’ legacy will live on forever. Your friendship and generosity have made this possible, and we can’t thank you enough.

Roy was born in Augusta, raised in Yarmouth and attended North Yarmouth Academy where he excelled on the ice. After establishing the foundation in 1997, he traveled around the country, speaking about his accident and his life. The foundation has raised more than $25 million over 26 years and has awarded grants to more than 2,100 people with full or partial paralysis.

The foundation held its last fundraising event in June and has now ended its ongoing charity operations. However, the website still contains letters of appreciation from some of the recipients. Among the messages, there is one from a young woman who became a quadriplegic in a car accident; the foundation helped her get a laptop to use while studying medicine.

Travis Roy as a freshman at Boston University in 1995. Associated press

“It was the laptop I received from the foundation that ended this nightmare for good and allowed me to pass subsequent medical school exams with peace of mind,” said she writes. “It was a great support at the time, as I embarked on a journey through an already expensive academic pursuit. The laptop helped me during my basic science classes, including taking exams, as well than my clinical rotations in hospitals and outpatient clinics.

Others have written about how grants from the foundation have helped pay for electric wheelchairs, vehicle repairs, home improvements and chair ramps.

“It makes my life more accessible and easier,” said one woman. “Now I can go anywhere without being afraid to go out.”

In 2014 Roy received the prestigious Spirit of Courage Award from the Christopher Reeve Foundation for his efforts on behalf of people with spinal cord injuries. At the time, he was talking about the foundation’s growth over the years and its broad impact.

“The first seven, eight years, the impact was very small,” Roy said. told the Press Herald. “In the past eight or ten years, we have changed the lives of 1,000 people. We fund research. I realize that (the Spirit of Courage award) is important. It means a lot to me because I share it with so many others. I’m just the lead singer of this band.


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