Daniel J Vance

A number of readers have drawn my attention to ‘Team Hoyt’ and graciously asked me to feature this amazing father-son running team associated with disability. The first email came from a reader of Grainger Today in Tennessee.

Be careful, you may cry while reading this story.

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Team Hoyt consists of 66-year-old Dick Hoyt and 44-year-old son Rick, and together they compete in marathons and triathlons across America. This would not be remarkable except for Rick having cerebral palsy and being unable to walk.

‘When Rick was being born in 1962, the umbilical cord was twisted around his neck,’ said Dick Hoyt in a telephone interview from his Massachusetts home. ‘It took minutes before the doctors could untangle it. [The lack of oxygen] caused brain damage.’

The United Cerebral Palsy website claims an estimated 764,000 Americans have cerebral palsy, which almost always occurs in a child before, during or shortly after birth. Cerebral palsy affects the brain’s ability to control muscle movement, but usually it doesn’t affect intelligence.

‘Our doctors said Rick should be placed in an institution because he would be nothing more than a vegetable his entire life,’ said Hoyt. ‘On the way home from the doctors, my wife and I cried and talked, and decided we wouldn’t put Rick away in an institution. Instead, we took him home to raise him like any other child. And we tried proving the doctors wrong.’

Rick couldn’t talk or use his arms or legs. And he still can’t at age 44. Yet he has graduated from public high school, and Boston University, and now lives by himself in an apartment.

‘We knew he was smart,’ said Hoyt. ‘When we talked to him he looked right in our eyes. We tried getting him into public school, but they turned us down, saying that Rick couldn’t understand anything said.’

In 1974, the Hoyts met with Tufts University engineers, who agreed to build an interactive communicator through which Rick could ‘talk’ to others.

So what were his first words at age 12?

‘We thought they’d be ‘mom’ or ‘dad,” said Hoyt. ‘Back then the Boston Bruins were going for (ice hockey’s) Stanley Cup. His first words were ‘Go Bruins!’ He’d been following their progress all along.’

Next column learn how Dick and Rick have completed almost 1,000 athletic events together, including 25 Boston Marathons.

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