Off the ice, former BU skater Travis Roy inspires
Students at the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School heard a motivational speech Wednesday from Travis Roy, a former hockey star who is now wheelchair-bound after an accident on the ice. Mr. Roy told the students how he copes with his life-changing injury and offered lessons others might draw from his experience. His visit was sponsored by the Rotary Club of Martha's Vineyard.
"When the kids meet me for the first time, all they see is the wheelchair and that I'm a quadriplegic," said Mr. Roy, who is now 33 years old and a dedicated advocate for spinal cord injury victims. "Generally, by the time I'm done, students see my experience. When they leave, there is a thought process going on there, a little more understanding."
Mr. Roy grew up in Maine, playing hockey from a very young age. After graduating from Tabor Academy, Mr. Roy was accepted with a scholarship, to play hockey for Boston University, a perennial Division 1 powerhouse.
Eleven seconds into the first shift of his college career, Mr. Roy tried to check an opponent, lost his balance and fell head first into the boards. The collision left him paralyzed from the neck down. Although his injury ended his dreams of playing hockey in the NHL, he has found another powerful calling, telling his story to others.
"What I try and tell my younger audiences are all the things your parents try to preach, but it comes from a different aspect." Mr. Roy explained. "I talk about pride, respect, love and a little bit about goal setting."
The capacity crowd at the Performing Arts Center was first shown an introductory video that included some biographical notes and interviews. The audience gasped in unison as a video clip of Mr. Roy's fall was played several times.
"I could hardly bear it the first time I saw it," said Matt Flynn, a junior from West Tisbury and one of two current Vineyard hockey players selected to introduce Mr. Roy. "But the second time really showed me how serious Travis's injury was and how much he has had to go through."
Mr. Roy has used his experience as a quadriplegic to help explain what he had learned about dealing with challenges.
"There will be times in life when you choose your challenges and can set your own goals, and there are other times when challenges simply choose you," explained Mr. Roy to the captive audience. "And it's what you do in the face of those challenges that really defines you as a person."
Mr. Roy went on to talk about the importance of a good attitude, even in the face of adversity. He advocated self-respect and respect for others, and he challenged the students to achieve their goals while maintaining good relationships with friends and family. Finally, he touched on the importance of expressing emotions, asking the students to be more forthcoming with their feelings for others.
After his talk, a group of students obviously affected by the speech gathered around Mr. Roy on stage to take pictures and converse with him.
As they left the hall, some students stopped to discuss Mr. Roy's talk. Junior Trey Rasmussen said he thought that Mr. Roy's message had changed his attitude, not only about hockey but about "my outlook and goals in life."
Max Nunes, the student council secretary and a junior from West Tisbury, called Mr. Roy a "really incredible speaker, definitely inspirational and motivational.
"It is something that will stick well with the kids as they face obstacles now or down the road. I really think it will make a lasting impact on the students."