Keep Believing

Two summers ago, before the selection of a sixth grade Bar Mitzvah project, we spent a vacation afternoon with a shut bedroom door, uncharacteristic quiet emanating for an hour or two too many.  He said: “What do you think, G*d won’t let me grow up if I don’t have a Bar Mitzvah?” Slam. I said: “Don’t know about G*d, but I am pretty sure I won’t…”  Laughing to lighten the threat.  Then out he comes a few hours later, proud as proud can be: “Okay. Now I’m ready to do my Bar Mitzvah, because it has meaning. I have figured out my project. I am going to raise money for the Travis Roy Foundation.”  Who? And thus began the education…

Not being a sports person, I had not heard the story of the NHL-worthy, Boston University freshmen, who in his first eleven seconds of play, in his first college game, was hit into the boards, and suffered a spinal cord injury – a C5/6 injury which in SCI (“spinal cord injury”) speak means the spinal cord was severed high up, towards the base of the head, in the cervical section of the spine. The higher the injury, the more significant the impairment can be even after surgery, rehabilitation and good self-care.

Like other kinds of major medical and psychological “befores and afters,” this type of injury impacts the person plus. Family, community, and the fully extended world of “before” learns what “after” means: what it feels like, how it works, what life looks like now.  For Travis, medical teams promised that in 10 years there would be a cure. It has been twenty, and still there is no definitive solution.

In the time since his injury, Travis has built a life full of meaning. One that inspires young boys approaching “manhood,” and whole families moving through their generations, to show up and sign up because, once a year, mid August, many, many, many people touched by Travis, mostly unknown to each other, but united in their support of his vision to improve the lives of people living with spinal cord injuries, come together for a three day whiffle ball tournament.

This is the second time I have heard Travis speak about the love he is surrounded by as hundreds of people come to Vermont from as far away as California and Buffalo and Atlanta. In its 15th year, the tournament raised over $600k this weekend, the most in its history.  Travis asked us for one thing as he addressed us today, with a strong voice wavering with emotion: “Keep Believing.  Keep believing that we will find a way for me, and others living with Spinal Cord Injuries, to regain some independence in our lives.” What I hear is a plea to hang in, have hope, strive forward, play harder, raise more money and awareness, come together more often, with more focus, and more urgency, because it is hard to keep believing when believing is the only option you have.

For the first 20 years of my life I had a passion – hockey. After my injury, the next twenty years have been about having a purpose and a passion for funding the support of people living with spinal cord injuries.  ~ Travis Roy ~

For more information or to donate, please visit http://www.travisroyfoundation.org/

©Gabriella Strecker, 2016