By Parry R. Headrick
In a stunning show of compassion by hockey fans and non-fans alike, a radio telethon to benefit paralyzed Boston University hockey player Travis Roy raised $452,448, when organizers had only expected the total to reach about $40,000.
The first wave of Boston’s radio and television media arrived at the George Sherman Union at the crack of dawn. By 7 p.m., they had helped raise about $351,000.
But the money kept pouring in. As of 9 p.m. last night, the telethon had raised about $452,448. That total included the $6,320 that was raised at the GSU drop-off center, according to Mary Ellen Osburn, operations coordinator at the GSU.
The total also didn’t include the estimated $150,000 that was donated by businesses for funding the remodeling of the Roy family’s home, which will be necessary when Roy leaves the hospital and returns home.
Twenty radio stations had immediately accepted American Radio Systems Vice President John McGuire’s invitation to support the event. More than 18 radio stations helped sponsor the event, and numerous television stations offered coverage,
“The response was overwhelming,” McGuire said. “This is a very competitive business. But for this event, our competitors all said, ‘How can I help?'”
McGuire said he had initially envisions raising only $30,000 to $40,000.
Roy’s father, Lee Roy, arrived at the pledge-line center, located at 1019 Commonwealth Ave., just moments after 4 p.m., when the total broke the $300,000 mark.
Before shaking hands with student volunteers who were manning the phone lines, the elder Roy said he was deeply humbled by the “enormous show of support.”
McGuire said Roy’s fellow teammates and more than 600 student volunteers helped field calls throughout the day.
Asked how the battery of media and students succeeded in raising so much money, Lee Roy credited “teamwork” for the accomplishment.
“Just take a look around here,” he said. “Travis has always been a real team player. I’m sure he would have liked to have been here to see this.”
Roy fractured his fourth cervical vertebrae in his first shift as a Terrier when he collided head-first into the boards during the Oct. 20 season opener against the University of North Dakota. Roy still lies paralyzed in a hospital bed at Boston University Medical Center Hospital. A tube in his throat prevents Roy from speaking.
All donations will go directly to the Travis Roy fund for the purchase of items such as a motorized wheelchair or any other medical expense not covered under Roy’s insurance policy.
WBZ-Channel 4’s Bob Lobel visited the GSU earlier in the day, joining Upton Bell’s 10 a.m. WTAG broadcast.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Lobel said. “Especially in Boston, where all of the radio stations are so competitive. I think that when everyone sees the remarkable strength of his parents, it makes them want to do anything they can to help. This is great.”
Upton Bell echoed Lobel’s opinion.
I’ve been around sports my whole life,” he said. “I’ve never seen an accident so sudden— the first shift of his first game as a Terrier— and I’ve never seen so many people willing to help.”
“We can’t do anything to make Travis feel more comfortable,” Lobel said. “But we can at least try to get him the things he needs.”
The phone lines closed at about 10 p.m. But organizers said donations can still be made by sending a check to Century Bank in Medford, where an account has been opened for the fundraising efforts.