"He'll be a vegetable the rest of his life," the doctors told Dick and his wife, when Rick was nine months old, "Put him in an institution." However, the Hoyts brushed aside such advice and chose to care for Rick themselves.
The Hoyt's amazing story starts over 43 years ago as Judy was giving birth to Rick. The umbilical cord was strangling the baby. By the time Rick was born, it was too late: Rick was brain-damaged unable to control his limbs or movements.
Yet in time, the attentive Hoyts noticed something unusual: Rick's eyes followed them as they walked around. Clearly, there was more going on inside Rick's brain than most thought was possible.
How to Change a Personal World — with a Joke
Fast forward to when the Hoyts took Rick, aged 11, to the engineering department at Tufts University. The Hoyt family wanted to know if there was anything available that could help Rick communicate.
"No way," Dick says they told him, "There's nothing going on in his brain!"
But Dick knew better.
"Tell him a joke," suggested Dick.
With the joke told: Rick laughed!
A seemingly simple test, had without doubt shown that there really was much more was going on in Rick's brain that all previous tests appeared to have missed.
Result: Rick was eventually connected to a computer that allowed him to control the cursor by touching a switch using the left side of his head. Now at last, Rick could communicate.
A Self-Confessed "Porker" Starts to Run: Team Hoyt is Born
News emerged from a high school classmate, paralyzed in an accident. The school set up a charity run for him.
Rick said, "Dad, I want to do that."
Even though Dick was an ex-military man, he describes himself at that time as a "porker", lucky if he ever ran more than a mile at a time. So the question of just how he was going to push his son 5 miles made the idea seem crazy.
"Then it was me who was handicapped", recounts Dick.
Nevertheless, Dick thought he would give it a go.
A result, says Dick, "I was sore for two weeks."
Yet, that first run had made an enormous impact on Rick: "Dad, when we were running, it felt like I wasn't disabled any more!"
When Dick heard his son type that sentence, Dick's life was forever changed.
Dick took the courageous decision to give Rick the "I'm not disabled" feeling as often as possible.
How Do You Run Marathons and complete Triathlons When You Can't Swim or Maybe Ride a Bike?
Dick knew that he would have to get super fit and stay that way if he was to have any chance of completing the kinds of races they had in mind.
In time, Team Hoyt were ready to go for the 1979 Boston Marathon.
"No way," a Boston Marathon race official told Dick.
Why? The Hoyts kind of slipped between the cracks of the system of rules: they couldn't be considered as a single runner nor as a wheelchair competitor.
So Team Hoyt joined in the mass of runners and ran anyway — a solution they applied for several years.
One day, the Hoyts discovered a way to officially enter the Boston Marathon. How? By running another marathon in 1983, the Hoyts ran fast enough to meet the qualifying time required for Boston Marathon the following year.
Fast forward: Dick has pushed his disabled son, Rick, in over 85, 26.2 mile marathons.
"Hey, Dick, why not try a triathlon?", suggested someone.
Dick had never learned to swim. Also, the last time he rode a bike, he was six. Dick also wondered how was he going to push, pull and haul Rick, his 110-pound offspring sufficiently fast enough to complete a triathlon and for both of them to live to tell the tale.
Nevertheless, Dick thought he'd give it a go.
Fast forward to 212+ triathlons including four 15-hour Hawaii "Ironmans" later.
The Driving Force, the Heart Attack and How the Son Saved His Dad
Someone suggests, "Hey, Dick, why not see how you'd do on your own?"
"No way," Dick says.
So just why does Dick do this? Disk explains that one reason above all others form his core driving force: "The awesome feeling" he enjoys when he sees Rick's wide smile as they run, swim, ride as a team.
"No Question About it", says Rick, "My dad is the Father of the Century ..."
A few years ago, Dick, then 65 and Rick, 43, completed their 24th Boston Marathon. Out of 20,000 who started the race, team Hoyt made 5,083rd place.
Up until 1992, their best time was 2 hours, 40 minutes. An incredible feat when you consider there's two in the team and one is in a wheelchair!
Some years ago, while taking part in a race, Dick had a mild heart attack. The cause: doctors told him one of his arteries was almost totally clogged.
One doctor told Dick, "If you hadn't been in such great shape, you probably would've died 15 years ago."
So has the son helped save the Dad who refused to give up on him at birth?
The two key inspirational messages from Team Hoyt are: "Yes you can", and "Everybody should be included in everyday life."
What more can Dick and Rick Hoyt teach us?
In particular, when hearing this story, I for one, will never see building a profitable Internet presence as hard work. No, for me, what Team Hoyt do is hard work!
Yet one thought especially stands out to me: it's that anything is possible when someone takes a conscious decision to give a child a chance.
- Discover more at Team Hoyt website.
- You can purchase the Dick and Rick Hoyt story at IronmandDVD.com.
- This article has been researched from sources freely found on the Internet in 2008. The author, Brian Austin, has simply chosen, in his own words, to recount the inspiring Hoyt story to further publicize an amazing act of generosity that is the Hoyt family and to focus the reader on the topic of human potential.