A Father’s Special Dedication: The Racing World of Dick and Rick Hoyt
They've been in many races as father and son. This includes marathons as well as Ironman Triathlons and more. Winning any race has never been their goal. Simply finishing the race within the allotted time is what makes them feel like winners.
Rick Hoyt was born with cerebral palsy. His father, Richard Eugene “Dick” Hoyt, was determined to not let his son's special need keep him from being in races. And what an incredible duo they became. Dick and Rick Hoyt have never quit a race. They live for their special love and dedication to one another.
Racing With His Son
During an Ironman Triathlon, Dick Hoyt will push his son in a special wheelchair during the running portion of the race. He will then place his son on a special seat in the front of a bicycle for the bike-riding portion of the race. Rick Hoyt is also placed in a special type of boat for the swimming portion of the race.
Dad, when we were running, it felt like I wasn't disabled anymore.— Rick Hoyt
Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis
Both parents were informed about Rick having cerebral palsy at his birth. Rick's umbilical cord was too tight around his neck, preventing oxygen from being able to flow into his body. This incident caused Rick's brain to be unable to send the right messages to his muscles.
The Hoyts had many doctors examine their son to see what could be done. Most of them told them Rick would never be anything but a vegetable. All of them advised the parent to institutionalize their son. They refused.
Hope and Success
After a period of time, the Hoyts met with a doctor in Boston who worked at Children's Hospital. He encouraged the parents to treat their son like other children. Dick's wife is named Judy, and she spent hours each day trying to teach Rick the alphabet with sandpaper letters. They also posted signs on each object in the house and helped Rick learn to read them. It took some time and persistence, but eventually, Rick learned the alphabet and could read.
At the age of 12, Rick was given a computer that made it possible for him to communicate. For the first time in his life, Rick was able to tell his parents how much he loved them and their family. This also made it possible for education professionals to realize Rick was very intelligent.
The communication device enabled Rick to attend public school. After finishing there, he then attended Boston University and graduated with a degree in special education. Rick later went on to be employed by the Boston College computer lab.
Creation of Team Hoyt
It was 1977 when Rick Hoyt heard about a road race that would help a lacrosse player from his school who recently became paralyzed. He had a desire to participate in the race to help the lacrosse player. Rick told his father about it. The problem was that Dick Hoyt was not a runner and had never had any desire to be a runner. But he was moved by the desire to help he saw in his son's face. He realized Rick had a very compassionate nature. Dick Hoyt would find a way to help his son participate in the race.
A Father's Determination
Dick Hoyt agreed to be in the race and pushed Rick for the entire five miles in a wheelchair. Dick Hoyt thought this race would be it. Then Rick communicated to him on the computer that when they were together in the race, he felt like his disability had disappeared. This statement changed the life of both father and son.
During the next 37 years, they would participate in many different races. Dick's determination to help Rick led him to start running every day. He would train with bags of cement in a wheelchair, on a bike or in a boat since Rick was always busy studying or attending school.
As of 2016, Dick and Rick Hoyt had competed together in over 1,125 endurance events. This includes more than 71 marathons as well as seven Ironman triathlons. The Boston Marathon has been completed by the Hoyts 32 times. They also did more than compete in races. Dick and Rick Hoyt ran and biked the entire length of the United States. It took them 45 days to complete a distance of 3,735 miles.
All good things must come to an end. When Dick Hoyt reached the age of 73, and Rick Hoyt was 52, the father-and-son team who had inspired so many people felt it was time to give up competing in races. Initially, they were going to make the 2013 Boston Marathon their last race. It had always been their favorite race to run. The terrorist bombing that year made many runners unable to finish the race. Dick and Rick Hoyt were stopped at the 23-mile mark. They were determined to not let this be their last race.
The father and son team made the 2014 Boston Marathon their grand finale. At the end of the race, Dick was interviewed by a local Boston media. He told reporters how he and Rick were glad to be in the race for the people who got killed or wounded the previous year.
The Hoyt Foundation
In 1989, Dick and Rick Hoyt worked with others to create a non-profit organization known as the Hoyt Foundation. The goal of the organization is to help those with disabilities in the United States build self-esteem and self-confidence. This is done by inclusion in the family as well as community activities including school, sports as well as the workplace. This is encouraged by Dick and Rick Hoyt at their speaking engagements. They speak at professional as well as community events, group meetings, and more.
Bronze Statue of the Hoyts
On April 8, 2013, Dick and Rick Hoyt were honored with a bronze statue of them running a race. It is a life-size bronze statue that was commissioned by John Hancock. The dedication of the statue occurred in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, near the place where the Boston Marathon begins. The official name of the statue is the same as Team Hoyt's tagline, "Yes, You Can."
Today, Dick and Rick Hoyt still maintain close communication with one another. Rick has his own apartment, as he has home care, and is employed. Dick has retired from the military and lives in Holland, Massachusetts. They still get together and travel around the United States giving speeches.
One Father's Day, Rick was asked what he would like to give his father if he could give him anything. Rick told everyone that he would like most to be able to have his dad sit in a chair, and he have the ability to push his father for once.
Questions & Answers
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