Team Hoyt: Dick and Rick Hoyt
Hall of Fame Alumni
Rick Knas Lifetime Achievement Award
Rick was born in 1962 to Dick and Judy Hoyt. As a result of oxygen deprivation to Rick's brain at the time of his birth, Rick was diagnosed as a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy. Dick and Judy were advised to institutionalize Rick because "there was no chance of him recovering", and little hope for Rick to live a "normal" life. This was the beginning of Dick and Judy's quest for Rick's inclusion in community, sports, education and one day, the workplace.
Dick and Judy soon realized that though Rick couldn't walk or speak; he was quite astute and his eyes would follow them around the room. They fought to integrate Rick into the public school system, pushing administrators to see beyond Rick's physical limitations. Dick and Judy would take Rick sledding and swimming, and even taught him the alphabet and basic words, like any other child. After providing concrete evidence of Rick's intellect and ability to learn like everyone else, Dick and Judy found a way to help Rick communicate for himself.
In 1972, with $5,000 and a skilled group of engineers at Tufts University, an interactive computer was built for Rick. This computer consisted of a cursor being used to highlight every letter of the alphabet. Once the letter Rick wanted was highlighted, he was able to select it by just a simple tap with his head against a head piece attached to his wheelchair. When the computer was originally first brought home, Rick surprised everyone with his first words. Instead of saying, "Hi, Mom," or "Hi, Dad," Rick's first "spoken" words were: "Go, Bruins!" The Boston Bruins were in the Stanley Cup finals that season. It was clear from that moment on, that Rick loved sports and followed the game just like anyone else.
In 1975, at the age of 13, Rick was finally admitted into public school. After high school, Rick attended Boston University, and graduated with a degree in Special Education in 1993. Dick retired in 1995 as a Lt. Colonel from the Air National Guard, after serving for 37 years.
In the spring of 1977, Rick told his father that he wanted to participate in a 5-mile benefit run for a Lacrosse player who had been paralyzed in an accident. Far from being a long-distance runner, Dick agreed to push Rick in his wheelchair and they finished all 5 miles, coming in next to last. That night, Rick told his father, "Dad, when I'm running, it feels like I'm not handicapped."
This realization was the beginning of Team Hoyt. 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). Rick was once asked, if he could give his father one thing, what would it be? Rick responded, "The thing I'd most like is for my dad to sit in the chair and I would push him for once."
The 2009 Boston Marathon was Team Hoyt's 1000th race. Team Hoyt has become a fixture on the Boston Marathon course, running it more than 30 times. During the 2013 Boston Marathon, they learned about the bombs at mile 23 and tried to run to the finish line to make sure their families and their foundation members were OK. This year, the father-and-son team decided it's time to say goodbye and made their favorite course, the Boston Marathon, their final race together. Rick will continuing running the Boston Marathon with teammate Bryan Lyons. Dick and Rick will continue to do shorter distance local races and triathlons together.
Team Hoyt has inspired people for nearly 40 years. For Dick Hoyt, the best part has been watching people first accept Rick and then embrace him. Team Hoyt has completed over 1,100 races, including marathons, duathlons and triathlons (6 of them being Ironman competitions). Also adding to their list of achievements, Dick and Rick biked and ran across the U.S. in 1992, completing a full 3,735 miles in 45 days.
To continue the legacy that Dick and Rick have started, three organizations have been formed around the country to pair-up an able-bodied runner to an athlete in a running chair - Team Hoyt Virginia Beach, Team Hoyt San Diego, and Team Hoyt New England.