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

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

A Maine native, Travis Roy injured his spinal cord 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 fundraising to help others with spinal cord injuries.

Roy died Oct. 29, 2020, at age 45, from surgery complications. Last year, the nonprofit he began announced that it would soon cease operation, as he had previously requested.

Now, as the foundation winds down, it will make major gifts to two of the nation’s leading sites for treating spinal cord injuries: 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 Friday, one 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 research in the field,” the foundation posted on Facebook. “Through these endowments, Travis’ legacy will live on in perpetuity. Your friendship and generosity have made this possible, and we can’t thank you enough.”

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


The foundation held its last fundraising event in June, and has now shut down its ongoing charitable operations. The website, however, still features letters of appreciation from some of the beneficiaries. Among the messages is one from a young woman who became quadriplegic in a car accident; the foundation helped her obtain a laptop to use during medical school.

Travis Roy when he was a freshman at Boston University in 1995. Associated Press 

“It was the laptop I received from the foundation that put an end to that nightmare for good, and allowed me to take subsequent medical school exams with peace of mind,” she wrote. “It was a great support at that time, as I embarked on a journey through an already expensive academic pursuit. The laptop has helped me during my basic science courses, especially to take exams, as well as my clinical rotations in the hospitals and outpatient clinics.”

Other people have written about how the foundation’s grants helped pay for power wheelchairs, vehicle repairs, home improvements and chair ramps.

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

In 2014, Roy was presented with the Christopher Reeve Foundation’s prestigious Spirit of Courage Award for his efforts to help those with spinal cord injuries. At the time, he talked about the growth of the foundation over the years and its broad impact.

“The first seven, eight years, the impact was very small,” Roy told the Press Herald. “The last eight, 10 years we’ve changed the lives of 1,000 people. We’re funding research. I realize (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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