If you’ve spent any time in Massachusetts, then you may have heard of the inspiring father and son combo of Dick and Rick Hoyt. Rick was born in 1962 as a spastic quadriplegic, cerebral palsy, non-speaking person. While his body may be disabled, the ability of his mind and person has always been strong, and his father, Dick, has been a lifelong supporter of Rick’s quest for independence and inclusion in sports, specifically in the marathon and triathlon. “When I am running, observes Rick, “it feels like I’m not even handicapped.”
Since completing their first 5-miler 30 years ago, together they have participated in almost 1000 race events. Although Dick is pushing Rick on the course, he claims that it is Rick who is the real motivator and that he is just out there loaning his arms and legs so that his son can compete. Through the marathon circuit, I’ve had the privilege to become friends with Team Hoyt and have shared their story of inspiration with many. Their unwavering commitment to one another is a remarkable testament to the human spirit.
Dick, (DH), says that there is an unbelievable feeling he gets when he is running with his son that he can’t fully explain, but it helps him to move faster. By their example and motto, “Yes You Can!”, I am reminded that there is nothing we can’t do if we put our minds to it. I can’t think of any better way to honor this upcoming Father’s Day than to reflect on the love and commitment displayed by this amazing father-son team. When asked what one thing Rick wished he could give his father, he answers simply: “The thing I’d most like is that my dad would sit in the chair and I would push him once.”
AM: How has a “buddy system” helped you to stay the course when you might otherwise have felt like quitting?
DH: Rick is my motivator, I keep going because he gives me the strength to go on, through his actions. He will look at me and encourages me when he knows I am losing power. I would not be able to do all the things I can do if it was not for him pushing me forward. If I was doing this alone I know I would not accomplish all that we have done together.
AM: Which communities do you enjoy getting involved with?
DH: We do a lot with the Easter Seals of Massachusetts organization. It is a great group of people, from the CEO and President, right down to the little children that they service. Everyone works together to find ways for the disabled to be out in the public, enjoying life with everyone else. Rick and I love doing their walks, fundraisers, and activities.
AM: What kinds of qualities attract you to someone when you meet them for the first time?
DH: These are the traits that I look for in my friends and people that I am around: honest, integrity, loyal, hard working and dependable.
AM: What person, foundation, or group has had the greatest impact on the shaping your endeavors?
DH: I would say that Dave McGillivray (Boston Marathon race director) has had a big impact on my life and on Rick’s – as Dave is the one who encouraged us to get into triathlons.
AM: What advice would you give to someone who is feeling isolated?
DH: Try to find a group to get involved with and people to be around. Volunteer for a charity organization or a project that helps people whom are less fortunate… It will make you value what you have, and put your life into perspective.
The Hoyt Foundation Inc is a non-profit organization formed in 1989 with a mission to build the individual character, self confidence, and self-esteem of America’s disabled young people through inclusion in all facets of daily life including in family and community activities, especially sports, at home, in schools and in the workplace. Some groups that have benefited from their donations are Easter Seals of MA., Challenged Athletes Foundation, Pioneer Valley Therapeutic Riding, and Kamp for Kids. The Foundation also provides advice, financial support and/or equipment to groups that share their mission and passion. To find out how you can make a donation, or for more information on Team Hoyt visit their website: http://www.teamhoyt.com/