15 years ago today, my life changed forever.
On August 2, 2008, I was skating in summer tournament gearing up for my first season of junior hockey. Never in a million years did I think that trying to pursue a dream of playing collegiate hockey would result in paralysis. However, on this day 15 years ago, paralysis did enter my family and I’s life. After suffering an injury during the third period of a game on August 2, 2008, I was transported from Haverhill, MA to Boston, MA. I don’t remember much until the following day. My first introduction to paralysis was waking up in the hospital, looking at my mother’s hand on my hand and then trying to squeeze her hand but I couldn’t. It’s a feeling and an emotion that I’ll never forget. Not knowing what was wrong just yet, my doctor came into my room a short time later and said I need to talk to you about this injury called paralysis.
So much has transpired since that initial conversation with my doctor. Yes, I would sustain 2 more unrelated paralyzing injuries in the next 18 months but as much hurt, suffering, and heartache that paralysis has brought to my family and I, something amazing has come out of this horrible situation.
The Thomas E. Smith Foundation was born in October 2009 and became a licensed 501(c)3 non-profit in May 2010. Co-founded with one of my best friends Tucker Mullin, we initially set out with the mission of making the extremely hard situation of paralysis less painful for individuals and families who suffer from it. Today, this mission is still at the core of our foundation. However, it has grown into much more than I ever thought was possible when I laid hopeless in my hospital room 15 years ago.
Over the years, The Thomas E. Smith Foundation has achieved international success with our invention The Look-Up Line, ice hockey’s warning track. We’ve biked 2,100+ miles over 38 days from Boston, MA to Miami, FL and in doing so, raised $100,000 for paralysis research. I’ve completed 5 Boston Marathons becoming the first person with paralysis to do so multiple times. We’ve established a golf tournament that every year continues to grow and outdo the previous year in terms of donations. We are a paralysis partner of The Boston Bruins Foundation and host annual events with the Bruins to raise money for our individual grant program. A lot has happened since my first accident and there is certainly much to be proud of. However, my most proud accomplishment since co-founding The Thomas E. Smith Foundation came earlier this year when we crossed $1,000,000 donated to individuals and families living with paralysis, as well as paralysis research.
This is a huge accomplishment for our volunteer, non-profit organization. I write this note to you beaming with pride and sincere gratitude for all that you have done to help us accomplish this major milestone. Whether you are a donor, volunteer, board member, family, or friend of The Thomas E. Smith Foundation, you have played a part in helping those with paralysis when they needed it most. Without your support, this simply would not be possible. I’m forever grateful for this and thank you for embarking upon this journey with us. I am more optimistic than ever about the future of The Foundation, and I look forward to many more years of working together. I hope you have a wonderful rest of your summer.
Thomas E. Smith
The Thomas E. Smith Foundation