In 1962, Dick and Judy Hoyt gave birth to their son, Rick Hoyt. During child birth, Rick’s umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck, cutting off the supply of oxygen to his brain. He was diagnosed as a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy. The doctors advised Dick and Judy to institutionalize Rick because he was never going to be anything other than “a vegetable.” Dick and Judy refused and brought Rick home, to raise him like any other child.
Dick and Judy noticed that Rick could comprehend his surroundings, even though the medical doctors continued to insist he was “a vegetable.” In 1972, the Hoyts raised $5,000 through bake sales, a local dinner dance and donations from friends and family. They used this money to pay a group of skilled engineers at Tufts University to built an “interactive computer” for Rick. Rick was able to see the letters of the alphabet and select the letters he wanted by pressing a pad on the headrest of his wheelchair with his head, the only part of his body he can move voluntarily. Doing this, Rick was able to communicate and type messages. The first words Rick ever “spoke” were “Go Bruins!” The Boston Bruins were in the Stanley Cup that year and it turned out Rick was a Bruins fan.
In the spring of 1977, Rick told Dick that he wanted to compete in a 5-mile running road race to help raise money for a high school lacrosse player who had been paralyzed in a recent accident. Dick, a non-runner at that time, pushed Rick for the full 5 miles. They finished next to last, but not last. Later that night, Rick typed “Dad, when I’m running, it feels like I’m not handicapped.” And that is when it all started.
Since that fateful day in 1977, Dick and Rick, becoming known as “Team Hoyt,” has finished 255 triathlons (6 being Ironman distance and 7 being Half Ironman distance), 22 duathlons, 72 marathons (32 being the Boston Marathon), 95 half marathons, 35 Falmouth 7.1 milers, and a handful of other various distance races. Team Hoyt has a marathon PR of 2:40:47 and half marathon PR of 1:21:12. Dick and Rick are also two of only 27 total members of the Ironman Hall of Fame, carried the Olympic torch in 1996 and in 1992 they ran and rode a bike from Santa Monica, California to Boston Harbor in 45 consecutive days. Team Hoyt has competed in, and finished, more than 1,100 events.
On April 8, 2013, a life-size bronze statue of Team Hoyt, commissioned by John Hancock, was unveiled on the lawn of the Center School in Hopkinton, just yards from the starting line of the Boston Marathon. The statue was unveiled in a 30-minute dedication ceremony. When asked about the statue, Dick said, “It [doesn’t] get any better than that. To us this is the Stanley Cup, this is the World Series[.]” Months later, on July 17, 2013, Dick and Rick were awarded the Jimmy V Perseverance Award at the 2013 ESPY Awards. The Jimmy V Award is given to those individuals in athletics who have overcome great obstacles through perseverance and determination. The award couldn’t be more fitting, with Team Hoyt’s motto being, “Yes, You Can!”
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