By Daniel J. Vance
As mentioned in a recent column, “Team Hoyt” consists of 66-year-old Dick Hoyt and his 44-year-old son Rick Hoyt, and together they have competed in hundreds of marathons and other athletic events throughout America over the last 26 years.
Besides all the running, Dick has the added strain of pushing Rick in a wheelchair along all their race routes. Though because of cerebral palsy not able to talk or move arms or legs, Rick nonetheless has a brilliant mind, and has graduated from Boston University.
If nothing else, Team Hoyt is a story of a father's deep love for his son and of his desire to fully include his son in everything.
“We started running together when my son was in middle school in 1979,” said Dick Hoyt in a telephone interview. “At first it was tough for me because all we had was a regular wheelchair. I had quite a time pushing him along and also running.”
They finished next to last in their first race. But by using an interactive communicator, Rick was able to tell his father afterwards, “When I am running (with you) my disability disappears.”
His words powerfully motivated Dick to continue. Since 1979 Team Hoyt has competed in 950 athletic events, including 25 Boston Marathons.
In their first few races, said Hoyt, “nobody came near us, nobody talked with us, and nobody wanted us in the race. I started getting telephone calls and letters from people wanting to know why I was dragging my handicapped son into the races. They thought I was looking for publicity, but they didn't realize he was dragging me into the races.”
At their first Boston Marathon, and using a wheelchair better suited for racing, Team Hoyt placed ahead of 85 percent of all runners by finishing in three hours and 18 minutes.
Today, Dick and Rick receive upwards of 300 emails daily from people the world over, most offering their thanks or encouragement. Last year, Team Hoyt raised $385,000 for Easter Seals.
“We've been trying to educate the public (about disability),” said Hoyt. “When we first started running, most people had never seen anyone like Rick. As for me, before having Rick I had never seen anyone in a wheelchair or heard of cerebral palsy. But people like Rick should have opportunities to do things and live like anyone else.”
For more, see danieljvance.com. [This column made possible by a grant from Blue Valley Sod, www.bluevalleysod.com]