Rick Hoyt may be one of the most famous marathoners in modern history yet he has never run in a race. Rick was born to Dick and Judy Hoyt in 1962 but there were profound complications in the delivery which resulted in significant oxygen deprivation. Rick was diagnosed as a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy. Rick cannot walk nor can he speak and he has severe limitations in movement.
Dick and Judy loved their son and they were committed to ensuring that Rick experience life in its fullest. They taught him the alphabet and other skills as any parent would and they sought to have him participate in public school. In 1972, with the help of engineers from Tufts University in Medford/ Somerville, Mass., just outside Boston, Rick received an interactive computer that allowed him to “speak” by highlighting letters and words. Rick was a true Bostonian; his first “spoken” words were “Go Bruins!”
In 1977 Rick communicated to his dad that he wanted to participate in a five-mile benefit marathon for a lacrosse player who had been paralyzed. Dick walked with Rick, pushing his wheelchair, for the full five miles. When the race was over, Rick exclaimed, “Dad, when I’m running, it feels like I’m not handicapped.”
Team Hoyt was born! Since this first race in 1977, Rick and Dick Hoyt have participated in over 1,000 races, marathons, duathlons and iron man competitions with the 2009 Boston Marathon as Team Hoyt’s official 1000th race. The triathlon provides a compelling illustration of what it takes for Rick and Dick to race together; In a triathlon, Dick will pull Rick in a boat with a bungee cord attached to a vest around his waist and to the front of the boat for the swimming stage. For the biking stage, Rick will ride a special two-seater bicycle, and then Dick will push Rick in his custom made running chair (for the running stage). You can read more about Rick and Dick Hoyt online.
There are so many different lessons for me as I reflect on this family. It all began because of a mother and father’s love for their son; wanting him to have as normal a life as possible. It was the love of a dad that found ways to provide his son some moments in life when he would not feel handicapped. It models to us what love can be in a family; encouraging, healing, empowering and freeing. The sacrifice is hardly felt when you cross the finish line together.
By: Jim Scott, supervisor of the Northeast District of Foursquare churches