"Twenty years after being paralyzed, tonight has provided the catalyst I needed to face the next 20 years. My life does have value," Travis Roy said

Travis Roy knows a thing or two about overcoming obstacles.

Two decades ago, the Boston University freshman had just taken the ice in his first game for the school’s hockey team – 11 seconds later, the 20-year-old star recruit was left paralyzed from the neck down after crashing head first into the boards.

But despite the tragedy he suffered on the ice exactly 20 years ago, Roy decided to turn his accident into triumph. The Travis Roy Foundation‘s tremendous work was celebrated on Tuesday evening at Boston University’s Agganis Arena, raising over $1 million for spinal cord research and equipment.

“Twenty years ago I lived out my dream of playing college hockey. Those 11 seconds I spent on the ice playing for BU were the best 11 seconds of my life,” Roy told the crowd.

But left paralyzed in the intensive care unit on a ventilator, Roy realized he had a decision to make: He could give up, or go on living with his disability.

Credit: Dan Busler Photography

“Once I decided that I did want to live, I realized I’d rely on the same values that made me successful before my accident,” said Roy.

And a success he certainly did become. The Travis Roy Foundation has since has funded over $2 million in spinal cord research, and has provided over $3.5 million in equipment for those with spinal injuries.

Roy and his foundation have become so prominent that Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh took the stage at the event to declare October 20 in the city of Boston to be “Travis Roy Day.” Walsh lauded Roy for his incredible work, calling Travis “one of his heroes.”

“Travis is a symbol of hope for so many people. He exemplifies the Boston Strong spirit,” said Walsh. “And the resilience, of course, of never giving up.”

An additional surprise of the evening came from Chris Moore, Dean of Sargent College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences at Boston University, who announced that an anonymous seven-figure donation would fund the Travis Roy Professorship in Research Sciences at BU.

As for the future, Roy says he looks forward with positivity and hope for finding a cure.

“Twenty years after being paralyzed, tonight has provided the catalyst I needed to face the next 20 years. My life does have value,” he told the audience. “My work has helped me create a life which is very much rich, very much worth living.”