During my travels around the world, and throughout the United, I have seen many things and heard many stories, but few are as moving and inspirational as the Team Hoyt story.
Team Hoyt is an organization established to help disabled youth in the United States. The foundation started when Dick Hoyt and his disabled son Rick began competing in running races back in 1977. When Rick was born, he was diagnosed as a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy. As Rick grew, it was soon realized that he would not be able to speak or walk. His parents were insistent on trying to give Rick the most out of life by pushing to get him into public school and college. Thanks to the persistence of his parents and his motivation and determination, Rick graduated from Boston University with a degree in Special Education in 1993.
When Rick was 15, he wanted to participate with his father in a 5-mile road race to benefit a lacrosse player who had been paralyzed in an accident. This was the first of over 1,000 races Dick Hoyt competed in while pushing his disabled son in a wheelchair specially designed for running. In addition to running races, Rick and Dick competed in triathlons and duathlons. After that first race, Rick told his father, through a computer program made for him at Tufts University, “Dad, when I’m running, it feels like I’m not handicapped.” That moment, Dick and Rick began their amazing journey.
In February, 2003, Dick Hoyt suffered a massive heart attack without knowing it had happened. After continuing to compete for a few weeks, Dick decided to go to the hospital due to an annoying tickle in his throat. The EKG showed Dick had 95% blockage in one artery and 85% in another requiring the insertion of 3 stents. This happened just 3 weeks before he and Rick planned on competing in their 22nd straight Boston Marathon. Unfortunately, they were unable to compete in the Boston Marathon in 2003, but this did not stop them from continuing to compete soon after Dick recovered.
As of November 2011, Rick and Dick have competed in 247 triathlons, 69 marathons and a total of 1069 events. Dick likely would have been severely impaired and may have died from his massive heart attack in 2003, but because he had dedicated much of the 26 years prior to the heart attack to conditioning for races, he was able to push through the fallback and become a successful distance athlete again.
The story of Team Hoyt promotes determination, hope and love. Little did the Hoyt family know that competing in races would spur a foundation for disabled youth in the United States. Additionally, there was no way of telling that Dick would have a massive heart attack, but end up being fine, likely due to his excellent conditioning. All of this because Rick enjoyed the feeling running with his father and Dick’s determination to make sure his son could have the best life possible. To learn more about the Hoyt Foundation and the Hoyt’s remarkable story, please visit teamhoyt.com.