| Students present Travis Roy with a check for $1500
Activist and author Travis Roy touched the hearts and minds of Hill School students, faculty, and guests on Tuesday, January 26 during an inspirational talk shared as part of Hill's "Common Humanity" theme for this academic year.
Roy shared the heart-wrenching story of how his college ice hockey career and dreams of playing pro hockey slammed to a halt due to an injury on the ice during his first 11 seconds of play in his freshman year at Boston University. That spinal cord injury left Roy completely paralyzed – but, ultimately, determined to help others through his experiences. Roy, the author of "Eleven Seconds: A Story of Tragedy, Courage, & Triumph,” clearly left his CFTA audience feeling inspired by his message.
And, to the credit of Hill's third form students in particular, and to Roy's surprise, Hill left their guest with a gift of $1,500 raised for the Travis Roy Foundation which works to help individuals who have suffered spinal cord injuries. Marisa Ortega, English teacher and third form dean, noted that the third form – which read Roy's autobiography over the winter break – initially wanted to sell enough of the Travis Roy Foundation wristbands to raise $800.
The third form students became so passionate about Mr. Roy's cause that they decided to "adopt" his foundation as an ongoing class project, with additional efforts to occur over their remaining years at Hill.
In introducing Roy, Tom Eccleston IV ’87, director of enrollment management, noted that another Hill graduate – Kevin Potter '85 – had coached Roy when he was a student at North Yarmouth Academy before Roy transferred to Tabor Academy for his junior and senior years. (Eccleston, a former Hill ice hockey coach from 1996 to 2004, is the son of Thomas Eccleston III, a former Hill faculty member and ice hockey coach, and the grandson of Thomas Eccleston Jr., legendary coach for whom Hill’s ice rink is named).
"Travis' story has not only had an impact on the hockey community, but on the community around the world," Tom said.
| Students meet with Travis Roy following his talk
Set goals, Roy tells Hill students
Roy talked about how his various sports coaches always emphasized the importance of setting goals – advice he took to heart. Among his earliest goals were his wish to play Division I college hockey, to perhaps play for the NHL, and, perhaps, to play for the U.S. Olympic Hockey Team. (He did carry the torch for the U.S. Olympics two times, in later years, after his injury.)
While some people are motivated by material incentives or rewards, "I always worked out, working toward my goals, because I wanted to find out how fast I could skate," Roy said, adding that he advises young people to find something they are passionate about, then ask themselves, "How good can I be?"
He also encourages students and others to demonstrate pride -- in the best sense of the word. "You always want to know you didn't sell yourself short, you didn't let your teachers and your parents down, you didn't let yourself down," he said.
Roy recounted the excruciatingly difficult first months after the 11 seconds that led to his paralysis – as well as the turning points that came for him during his rehabilitation. While he – like many people – at times thought "I can't take it anymore," he drew on his determination to move forward.
"You see things as you choose to see them," he said. "I realized my goals were going to be different, but I still had a choice.
"A positive attitude…can do more for your life than anything else," he added, noting that this sentiment is far from shallow. "Don't put limitations on yourself,” he said, adding that a rich life is “about creating new experiences.”
"You are at one of the most elite prep schools in the country – in the world," Roy said, urging Hill students to take advantage of all they can learn and "keep pushing yourselves to try new things, and to find out who you are."
Respect yourself, respect others
Roy also said he believes that the values a person possesses and demonstrates ultimately distinguish him or her from other people.
Referring to Hill's "Common Humanity" theme, Roy noted that it is wrong to make an assumption about a person based upon how he looks, or his race, or his religion. "That person deserves your respect right from the start," he said, adding that the degree of respect you have for someone may legitimately change once you realize the depth of his or her values.
Roy also spoke passionately about the power and importance of love, and the role it has played in his triumphs and successes.
"The key is to acknowledge the emotions of love," he said. "Add a quick 'I love you' to your parents at the end of a phone call or a text message, or send a card…..
"People often ask me what the first thing is that I want to do when I get out of this wheelchair," Roy said, noting that he has been paralyzed now for 14 years. "I tell them, I will hug my mother. Hug my father. Hug my family. Hug my friends."
Each day a “new face-off”
Roy also encouraged people to treat people with disabilities with compassion – and, importantly, to "acknowledge that the person is there. Smile, look them in the eye, and say hello. Make that choice."
"I look at each day as a new face-off," Roy said. "No, I cannot do the physical things I used to do, but I can still laugh; I can still cry; I can find pleasure in the simple things in life."
In response to a student question, Roy said his current goals include building upon his work as a motivational speaker and, of course, his fundraising toward finding a cure for paralysis.
"They're getting there," he said, regarding research efforts, adding that progress has been slower than he would like, of course -- and that research budgets have been slashed because of funds diverted to spending on our wars and that impediments have hampered important stem cell research.
He hopes "a few of you here at The Hill School" will enter medicine and help to find the cure.
When Hill third form students Molly Hopkins and Nate Smith-Ide presented Roy with a check for $1,500 raised toward his foundation, Roy was applauded again, and received a heartfelt standing ovation.