At just 19 years old, Xaverian’s Assistant Director of Admissions, Kyle MacDonald '10, found himself down on the ice in the middle of his hockey game. All in attendance looked on in horror at the sight that every hockey player, coach, and fan fears the most: a severe neck injury. Mr. MacDonald had suffered a burst fracture of his fourth cervical vertebra and a crack to his fifth, injuries that often can leave a person paralyzed for life. He was rushed to the hospital where he received a spinal fusion that removed bone fragments from around his spinal cord—a successful procedure which allowed him to make a full recovery.
Damage to the spinal cord can often be irreversible with the medical treatments available today, and it seems too few are able to get full movement back. While Mr. MacDonald was lucky his cervical burst fracture didn’t leave irreversible damage to his spinal cord, many others are not as fortunate. One such case is Travis Roy. Roy was a Boston University hockey player who, during his first collegiate shift in 1996, suffered an injury not unlike the one Mr. MacDonald sustained. However, the bone fragments of Roy’s bursted fourth cervical vertebrae had deeply severed his spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed. While Roy was not as fortunate as Mr. MacDonald, he did not let his situation keep him from making an impact. He started the Travis Roy Foundation, dedicated to raising money for the research of spinal cord injuries and to help pay for wheelchairs, home modifications, and anything else necessary for those who are paralyzed. Altogether, the foundation has earned over $20 million since it was started in 1996. Sadly, Roy passed away in the fall of 2020.
Every year, the Travis Roy Foundation has had a team run the Boston Marathon on behalf of the foundation to raise money. As it was Roy’s wish that the foundation would be shut down after his passing, this year was the final race for the organization. This made it all the more poignant for Mr. MacDonald when he learned that he was one of the applicants welcomed onto the team for Boston 2022.
Over several months prior to the marathon, Mr. MacDonald trained by running daily to prepare for the April 18 race. He had prepped for a marathon before (one that was canceled due to COVID-19), so he was no stranger to the training required. He put in a nearly 20-mile run each weekend with a couple shorter runs ranging from two to eight miles each day during the week. Mr. MacDonald also tried to either bike or swim weekly to mix up his training. “The hardest part of the experience was staying disciplined in terms of training,” Mr. MacDonald said. “There were certainly times when I didn’t want to go for a run or a training session, but my motivation was the organization I was running for and all of the generous people who had supported me and the Travis Roy Foundation.”
His hard work paid off in the end, as Mr. MacDonald crossed the finish line with a time of 3:40:31. He completed the 26.2 mile run and raised $7,886 for the Travis Roy Foundation, calling the experience “incredible.” “All of the training and fundraising felt worth it when I grinded through the final stretch on Boylston Street with hundreds of people cheering me on.”
The Travis Roy Foundation will soon be dissolving, but there are still many other organizations with a similar mission that would welcome donations. “I will continue to raise money and awareness because this is a cause that’s so important to me,” Mr. MacDonald said. He added, “I encourage others to do their own research to see the impact that this injury causes, not just to the individual but the people around them. Hopefully, with enough people dedicated to this cause, we can offer real hope for those affected by spinal cord injuries.”