Dick and Rick Hoyt exemplify the qualities that every business person wants to have: discipline, determination, and daring. This father/son team speaks to everyone from kindergarteners to salespeople about overcoming obstacles and reaching their goals. But they don't use slogans to inspire; they simply tell the story of their remarkable life together.
Dick Hoyt, 59, and Rick Hoyt, 37, compete together every weekend in marathons and triathlons. They've climbed mountains, and once trekked 3,735 miles across America, walking and riding 79 miles per day for 47 days straight. What makes their achievement so astounding is that Rick can't walk or talk. His father, who lives in Holland, Mass., has spent more than 20 years pushing and pulling his son across the country and over hundreds of finish lines.
"People look at Rick and me, and I think it inspires them and motivates them," Dick Hoyt says. "We've come a long way and broken many barriers."
During Rick's birth in January 1962, the umbilical cord became wrapped around his neck, cutting off oxygen to his brain and leading to the damage that left him speechless and nearly motionless. Doctors told Dick and his wife, Judy, that Rick should be institutionalized. Instead, the couple brought their son home. Within five years, Rick had two younger brothers, and the Hoyts were convinced Rick was just as intelligent as his siblings. Judy taught him the alphabet and tried to get him into the public school system. "We could tell he was smart by looking in his eyes," Dick says.
In 1972, the family raised $5,000 to support Tufts University engineers who were building an interactive computer that would allow Rick to communicate using a head switch. A cursor moved across a screen with rows of letters, and when the cursor highlighted a letter that Rick wanted, he would bump the switch with his head. When they brought the computer home, Rick finally spoke his first words. They weren't "Hi, Mom" or "Hi, Dad." Rick wrote "Go Bruins" on the screen. The Boston Bruins were in the Stanley Cup finals that year, and his family realized he had been following the hockey games along with everyone else. "So, we knew Rick loved sports," Dick says. In 1975, Rick finally was admitted into a public school. Two years later, he told his father he wanted to participate in a five-mile benefit run for a local lacrosse player paralyzed in an accident. Dick, not a long-distance runner, agreed to push Rick in his wheelchair. They finished next to last, but it was worth it. That night, Rick typed, "Dad, when you pushed me in the race, I didn't feel handicapped."
Those words launched Team Hoyt. They met with resistance from other racers, but they persisted and entered their first Boston Marathon in 1981, finishing in the top quarter of the field.
When someone suggested Team Hoyt compete in a triathlon, Dick learned to swim at the age of 44 and started bike riding for the first time since childhood. They built a seat for Rick on the front of Dick's bike and a boat for Rick that Dick tugged as he swam using a line attached to his waist.
With the aid of personal assistants, Rick has lived on his own since he graduated high school and enrolled in Boston University. It took him more than nine years to earn a bachelor's degree in special education. He now has a busy schedule of taking courses, helping engineers to design more efficient computers for people like him, teaching paralyzed children to use those computers, competing in marathons, and delivering motivational speeches.
During appearances, a computer speaks Rick's typed words. Rick may not be able to use his own voice, but his words have a powerful effect, his dad says. "He has people in tears, and he has them laughing," Dick says. "He cracks them up." Reach Dick Hoyt at (413) 245-9466 or email@example.com.