I just finished reading a very inspiring book, One Letter at a Time, by Rick Hoyt. If you aren’t familiar with this famous father/son team called Team Hoyt, they have completed over 1,000 running and triathlon races with the father, Dick, pushing and pulling his son, Rick. Rick was born a non-verbal, spastic quadraplegic with cerebral palsy and has spent his life in a wheelchair. After he was born, the doctors advised his parents to put him away in an institution. His parents would have nothing to do with that! They took him home, raised him to do everything else that his brothers did (hiking, swimming, hockey, you name it!) and fought to have him educated in public schools. Rick is quite a brilliant guy, using a head activated computer to communicate one letter at a time -even to write his book. He is the first non-verbal graduate of Boston University and has a degree in Special Education. He and his dad travel the world racing, speaking, and inspiring others with their YES YOU CAN message! They have met presidents and famous athletes, spoken on Oprah and Rosie, and been inducted into the Ironman Hall of Fame. Whenever they face obstacles, they never take no for an answer. They always find a way! YES YOU CAN is their life moto.
I was inspired on several levels. As an athlete, I was amazed at how fast Dick, the dad, could run a marathon and do an ironman while pushing his 100 pound son! His times are amazing! Together they qualified for the Boston Marathon -in under 3 hours. My fastest marathon is over 4 hours!!! Their ironman time is about 2 hours faster than mine. I can’t imagine pulling a raft with a 100 pound man for 2.4 miles then biking 112 miles carrying an extra 180 pounds (Rick’s weight plus the bike weight with the extra equipment needed). And if that doesn’t make you tired, try pushing 100 pounds through the marathon at the end of the day. All the while, Rick has a huge smile on his face and flails his arms in excitement as the crowds go wild! His dad says that he is legs of the team and Rick is the heart and soul. The constant smile on Ricks face says it all.
My biggest inspiration, though, wasn’t athletic at all. I was inspired by how much Rick, and his determined mom and dad, changed the world’s view of people with disabilities. They fought long and hard for things that we take for granted- that children with disabilities can attend public schools and summer camps. They can race in marathons and ironmans. Because Rick and Dick paved the way, My Team Triumph is now a national organization that matches thousands of children with disabilities with athletes who push and pull them across finish lines every weekend. People all over the world hear Rick speak through his computer and they see first hand that physical limitations do not necessarily mean mental limitations. Rick is one smart guy with a huge sense of humor. Rick wants everyone around him to know that people with disabilities have feelings too. It hurts him when people assume he can’t understand them so they talk to his dad instead. As I read his book, I realized that Rick and I are much more alike than different. I think that’s what he wanted me to see.
Many of our Team Orphan grants are placed on children with disabilities. These children in orphanages around the world, like Rick, need someone to give them a chance at a full and productive life. Will you help? Some are called to adopt. Everyone is called to care. YES YOU CAN!
Watch the inspiring Team Hoyt video at their website http://www.teamhoyt.com . Has anyone out there seen them at a race or heard them speak?