Wednesday, July 2, 2008

An Inspirational Father and Son

A beautiful true story to share about Dick and Rick Hoyt, who are a father-and-son team from Massachusetts who together compete in marathon races.
From their web site:

"It’s a remarkable record of exertion — all the more so when you consider that Rick can't walk or talk.

For the past twenty five years or more Dick, who is 65, has pushed and pulled his son across the country and over hundreds of finish lines. When Dick runs, Rick is in a wheelchair that Dick is pushing. When Dick cycles, Rick is in the seat-pod from his wheelchair, attached to the front of the bike. When Dick swims, Rick is in a small but heavy, firmly stabilized boat being pulled by Dick.
At Rick’s birth in 1962 the umbilical cord coiled around his neck and cut off oxygen to his brain. Dick and his wife, Judy, were told that there would be no hope for their child’s development.

'It’s been a story of exclusion ever since he was born," Dick told me. "When he was eight months old the doctors told us we should just put him away — he’d be a vegetable all his life, that sort of thing. Well those doctors are not alive any more, but I would like them to be able to see Rick now.'

The couple brought their son home determined to raise him as 'normally' as possible. Within five years, Rick had two younger brothers, and the Hoyts were convinced Rick was just as intelligent as his siblings. Dick remembers the struggle to get the local school authorities to agree: 'Because he couldn’t talk they thought he wouldn’t be able to understand, but that wasn’t true.' The dedicated parents taught Rick the alphabet. 'We always wanted Rick included in everything,' Dick said. 'That’s why we wanted to get him into public school.'

A group of Tufts University engineers came to the rescue, once they had seen some clear, empirical evidence of Rick’s comprehension skills. 'They told him a joke,' said Dick. 'Rick just cracked up. They knew then that he could communicate!' The engineers went on to build — using $5,000 the family managed to raise in 1972 - an interactive computer that would allow Rick to write out his thoughts using the slight head-movements that he could manage. Rick came to call it 'my communicator.' A cursor would move across a screen filled with rows of letters, and when the cursor highlighted a letter that Rick wanted, he would click a switch with the side of his head.

When the computer was originally brought home, Rick surprised his family with his first 'spoken' words. They had expected perhaps 'Hi, Mom' or 'Hi, Dad.' But on the screen Rick wrote 'Go Bruins.' The Boston Bruins were in the Stanley Cup finals that season, and his family realized he had been following the hockey games along with everyone else. 'So we learned then that Rick loved sports,' said Dick.

In 1975, Rick was finally admitted into a public school. Two years later, he told his father he wanted to participate in a five-mile benefit run for a local lacrosse player who had been paralyzed in an accident. Dick, far from being a long-distance runner, agreed to push Rick in his wheelchair. They finished next to last, but they felt they had achieved a triumph. That night, Dick remembers, 'Rick told us he just didn’t feel handicapped when we were competing.'
Rick’s realization turned into a whole new set of horizons that opened up for him and his family, as 'Team Hoyt' began to compete in more and more events. Rick reflected on the transformation process for me, using his now-familiar but ever-painstaking technique of picking out letters of the alphabet:
' What I mean when I say I feel like I am not handicapped when competing is that I am just like the other athletes, and I think most of the athletes feel the same way. In the beginning nobody would come up to me. However, after a few races some athletes came around and they began to talk to me. During the early days one runner, Pete Wisnewski had a bet with me at every race on who would beat who. The loser had to hang the winner’s number in his bedroom until the next race. Now many athletes will come up to me before the race or triathlon to wish me luck.'

It is hard to imagine now the resistance which the Hoyts encountered early on, but attitudes did begin to change when they entered the Boston Marathon in 1981, and finished in the top quarter of the field. Dick recalls the earlier, less tolerant days with more sadness than anger:
'Nobody wanted Rick in a road race. Everybody looked at us, nobody talked to us, nobody wanted to have anything to do with us. But you can’t really blame them - people often are not educated, and they’d never seen anyone like us. As time went on, though, they could see he was a person — he has a great sense of humor, for instance. That made a big difference.'

After 4 years of marathons, Team Hoyt attempted their first triathlon — and for this Dick had to learn to swim. 'I sank like a stone at first' Dick recalled with a laugh 'and I hadn’t been on a bike since I was six years old.'
With a newly-built bike (adapted to carry Rick in front) and a boat tied to Dick’s waist as he swam, the Hoyts came in second-to-last in the competition held on Father’s Day 1985.
'We chuckle to think about that as my Father’s Day present from Rick, ' said Dick.

They have been competing ever since, at home and increasingly abroad. Generally they manage to improve their finishing times. 'Rick is the one who inspires and motivates me, the way he just loves sports and competing,' Dick said. .........
.......Rick’s own accomplishments, quite apart from the duo’s continuing athletic success, have included his moving on from high school to Boston University, where he graduated in 1993 with a degree in special education. That was followed a few weeks later by another entry in the Boston Marathon. As he fondly pictured it: "On the day of the marathon from Hopkinton to Boston people all over the course were wishing me luck, and they had signs up which read `congratulations on your graduation!’"
Rick now works at Boston College’s computer laboratory helping to develop a system codenamed "Eagle Eyes," through which mechanical aids (like for instance a powered wheelchair) could be controlled by a paralyzed person’s eye-movements, when linked-up to a computer.
Together the Hoyts don’t only compete athletically; they also go on motivational speaking tours, spreading the Hoyt brand of inspiration to all kinds of audiences, sporting and non-sporting, across the country.
Rick himself is confident that his visibility — and his father’s dedication — perform a forceful, valuable purpose in a world that is too often divisive and exclusionary. He typed a simple parting thought: 'The message of Team Hoyt is that everybody should be included in everyday life.' "
Here is a video about this remarkable father and son team:

If you can not see the video please go to the YouTube web site to view it here.


Diane@A Picture is Worth.... said...

What a wonderful inspirational story to wake up to!
Thanks for posting.
I never know what I'll find on your is different from most I read...and I love it!

Lavinia Ladyslipper said...

Amazing, spectacular, extraordinary. Can anyone watch this with a dry eye? The human spirit is indomitable. This father is an inspiration to parents everywhere.

Thanks, Pat.

Betsy said...

Very, very inspirational...loved it!

Anonymous said...

Hia Pat! How inspirational! It does make you re-think the whole "disabled" label. One email I keep up on my computer was sent from a friend about a dog with both front legs amputated. Hang on I'll forward it. I'll remember this when I'm feeling sorry for myself. Thanks

When I was temporarily paralysed, I had a goal of one day climbing Machu Pichu in Peru. It got me through the physio and back to health. It's not so important now I'm fine, but having a goal at that bad time was. How inspirational that this family keep setting new goals and pushing the envelope.

Picket said...

Morning friend..that was such a moving and emotional post..what an inspiration to us all...we go around in our daily lives walking and talking and can do anything we want yet we have a tendency to whine and complain about the most meaningless things and then we see beautiful spirits such as this and it is very humbling...great post my friend...have a great week!

Beverly said...

That makes me feel so good about mankind. There is hope for us. One step at a time.

Thanks for sharing this, Pat.

The Berry Patch said...

I love this story! I'm in tears every time I see it.

Brandee :)

Brenda Jean said...

This is so amazing and one of those stories we all need to think about when we are complaining about some minor obsticle in our own lives.

Thanks for sharing:)

Alex said...

What an amazing story...speechless...thank you for sharing.

Tara said...


I watched a documentary on this father and son pairing, just amazing the love!! So glad to see it again!

Rosie's Whimsy said...

What accomplishments they have achieved! A truly inspiration story.

Barb said...

Every time I see them, I cry. What a beautiful story. Truly inspiring.


willow said...

Very touching story, Pat! It is amazing what the human spirit can accomplish. Inspiring post!

Edie Marie's Attic said...

Hi Pat!
I am so impressed by this story! What an amazing man and father! He has a really big heart to do what he does.
Thanks for bringing something so wonderful to us!!
Hugs, Sherry

Nana Trish is Living the Dream said...

Pat, I had never seen this. It is so touching. What a love story!

Strider said...

I saw this a while back on the internet. Very inspirational. Thanks for posting it.

Kari & Kijsa said...

We have seen this father/son team videos many times and cry each time!! Thanks for sharing! We will be flying our flags along with others through the Fourth, thanks for joining in all the Independence day celebrating with us!!

Happy Fourth!
kari & kijsa

steviewren said...

Fantastic and inspiring story of a father's love and a son's triumph over his physical challenges. My pastor blogged about this last year. Love prompts people to do remarkable things doesn't it?

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

I have read about this extraordinary father-son team...very inspirational and thank you for the post about them.

Thanks, too, for your comment today. I loved what you had to say about it all.

Marg said...

Thanks for sharing the story. It struck a chord. What hope, eh?
I've lived half a story like that, and tomorrow I'm going cycling with the one who has been there for me.
I climb the mountains while he smiles and pushes me onward.
This past year I found an electric bike Bionex and he has found a new outlet in life.
Each day is special.
Thanks for sharing this.
Never give up hope!!
That's what I call life.

Marg said...

This is overwhelming as I listen to the song. That song was sung at my mother's funeral.
Thanks for bringing us to reality of life.
We all have so many stories to share and sometimes we wipe them all on our sleeves.

Marg said...

Now I'm crying!!! It's so inspirational!!!

tales from an O.C. cottage said...

Oh my gosh, a friend just showed me this the other kind of puts all our "problems" into perspective, huh?

M ^..^

Joanne Kennedy said...

WOW! This is love. To think of what this young mans life would have been like if his father listened to the Dr. just breaks my heart. He would have been this wonderful smart man lock/trapped inside his body.

While my brother is not as bad off as this young man this story made me think of him. When he first had his stroke and was unable to talk was so hard for him. To think of going through life like!

Because of this father who loved his son with all his heart, the young man is helping others like him be able to speak to the world again.

I had a lump in my throat as I watched the video and then when the song came on I just lost it.

Beautiful! Just beautiful!


Penny @ Lavender Hill Studio said...

Amazing story! WOW!

LOUISE said...

A father never giving up on his son. What an inspiration to us all. x

Rue said...

That was a truly amazing story. Beautiful...

Kathy said...

Hi Pat, I agree with Diane, I am so glad I found your blog each post is heartwarming and educational, whether you are talking about your travels or your home town, your family or others, you do so in such a warm, friendly and knowledgable manor.
This was a beautiful touching post of the lives of Tean Hoyt and how they overcame not only Rick's handicap but the division and exclusion they encountered along the way, my son was born profoundly deaf and sometimes it is hard to see how some people react or behave towards him, he on the other hand says that it is their problem and not his. Rick's right everybody should be included in everyday life
Hugs, Kathy.

Proud Italian Cook said...

I saw these two inspiring human beings on Oprah, Amazing!
I have no excuse to complain about anything!

Little Cat said...

woh! Very beautifull story!!!