A Climb for Hope

Three years ago today Neutral Zone covered the story of Allie Skelley and Travis Roy; two former D1 college hockey players who both experienced career ending in-game neck injuries during their college careers. (Article: A Bond Beyond the Rink). Today at 6:30am Allie Skelley, in honor of his friend Travis Roy, accomplished a feat never done before in hiking up the 11 highest ski mountains in New Hampshire in 24 hours. The “11” symbolizes Travis’ autobiography Eleven Seconds and the “24” hours symbolizes his jersey number at Boston University, which now hangs in the rafters at Agganis Arena. This was all in effort to raise money and awareness for the Travis Roy Foundation for the upcoming TRF Wiffleball Tournament and as of 6:30am he had exceeded the $5,000 mark. “Allie has been a loyal friend and supporter of the Foundation for the past 13 years,” said an appreciative Travis Roy. “I can’t begin to explain how much his efforts have impacted other participants in the tournament to find creative ways to fundraise.”

Travis Roy was paralyzed 11 seconds into his first college hockey game at Walter Brown Arena in Boston, MA delivering a body check in the corner, losing balance and going head first into the boards. He was one of the most highly touted freshman prospects in the country, playing for the defending National Champions Boston University. Allie Skelley’s accident happened 7 years later at Appleton Arena in Canton, NY as a junior at St. Lawrence University. He took a bad hit from an opponent on Lake Superior which broke his neck on impact. He was motionless for a time but later regained his mobility after a stint at Fletcher Allen Hospital in Burlington, VT and ultimately walked out of the hospital. However, he was told by the doctors he would never play competitive hockey or any contact sports again. While in the hospital Allie was given Travis’ autobiography, Eleven Seconds, which helped him cope with his injury and provided the necessary motivation and perspective to move forward with his life after hockey.

Allie and Travis come from similar backgrounds and were three-sport athletes at New England Prep Schools that would go on to earn NCAA D1 scholarships in hockey at nationally prominent programs.

In the fall of 2005, by total coincidence, Allie would end up coaching Travis’ first cousin Brendan Collins, now Director of Scouting at Neutral Zone, on the Holderness School hockey team. After learning about the connection Brendan introduced the Travis and Allie at the at the Travis Roy Foundation Wiffleball Tournament and the two have remained close ever since.

The Wiflleball tournament has become the foundations biggest event raising over $5,000,000 for spinal chord injured survivors and research in the tournaments 15 year history. Not only was it record breaking event last year in fundraising bringing in a total of $617,000, but the team Allie and Brendan play on, the Blue Bulls, named after Holderness School mascot, won the tournament for the first time in their 13 years. “I am not ashamed to admit that winning the tournament last year was on the highlights of my life,” said Collins.

The tournament takes place in Jericho, VT at replica-built Fenway Park, Wrigley Field and Field Of Dreams. What is unique about this event aside from the setting and sport is the grassroots fundraising effort where all the players on the 32 participating teams go out and solicit donations from friends, family, associates, etc.  It is not a black-tie event or corporate sponsor type fundraiser; it is pure grassroots fundraising where participants are recognized more for the number of donations, they receive than the total amount.

Nobody takes that task more seriously than Allie Skelley; the 2016 recipient of the Travis Roy Foundation Fundraising Leadership Award named after Kim Trahan, a passionate supporter of the foundation and the Wiffleball tournament who lost her life to cancer in 2011. He has personally raised over $50,000 for the foundation through a series of physically demanding fundraising efforts that push his body to extremes in an effort to raise awareness and funds for Travis and the foundation. Some of these include running in the Boston Marathon wearing the TRF bib; paddle boarding across Lake Winnipesauke and last year hiking the three highest peaks in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire in 24 hours. This year his task was to hike the 11 highest ski mountains in New Hampshire in 24 hours; another mission accomplished!

Skelley wasn’t alone on top of Mount Sunapee today; he was accompanied by four friends, all with Holderness School ties and all there for the same reasons to raise money and awareness for the Travis Roy Foundation. Current faculty Randy Houseman and Nick Laurence were there every step of the way for all 11 mountains, as they have participated in Allie’s other endurance fundraisers. Joining them for part of the climb were a pair of Holderness alumns in Jesse Ross, who was responsible for driving mountain to mountain and hiked the final 5 summits, and Brendan Collins, his Wiffleball teammate, who hiked the 11th mountain to document the finish.

“This was harder than the Boston Marathon because of the steepness, the terrain and doing a portion of it at night with headlamps,” said a tired Allie Skelley. “When things got really tough I was motivated knowing how Travis would kill to feel this burning in his legs or be able to do this with me. That is what kept me going.”

Allie has raised $5,000 for the Travis Roy Foundation with 4 more days to go until the Wiffleball tournament. Neutral Zone Founder and President Steve Wilk, whose son played hockey for Allie at Holderness School and is also a participant at the Wiffleball tournament, will donate $24 for each donation on Allie’s behalf over the next 24 hours. “Both Allie and Travis have had a powerful and lasting impact on my son Stephen and we at Neutral Zone will always be proud and active supporters of the Travis Roy Foundation,” remarked Steve. “Watching NHLers like Jack Eichel, Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyk and others come out to play in the event and raise money shows how tight the hockey community is and how much Travis’ story resonates even 24 years after the accident.”

To Donate to the Travis Roy Foundation in honor of Allie Skelley and his accomplishment click here.