“The most successful people are those who are good at plan B.”
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. Doctors told his parents to institutionalize Rick because there was no chance of his recovery, and little hope for him to live a “normal” life.
However, Dick and Judy soon realized that though Rick couldn’t walk or speak, he was quite astute in other ways; his eyes would follow them around the room. They also took Rick sledding and swimming, even teaching him the alphabet and basic words—like any other child. They fought to integrate Rick into the public school system, pushing administrators to see beyond his physical limitations.
After providing concrete evidence of Rick’s intellect and his ability to learn, Dick and Judy needed to find 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 just for Rick. This computer’s cursor was programmed to highlight every letter of the alphabet. Once the letter Rick wanted was highlighted, he was able to select it by simply tapping his head against a connective piece attached to his wheelchair.
When the Hoyts first brought the computer 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.
In the spring of 1977, Rick told his father that he wanted to participate in a five-mile benefit run for a lacrosse player who had been paralyzed in an accident. Far from being a long-distance runner, Dick nonetheless agreed to push Rick in his wheelchair, and they finished all five 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 just the beginning of what would become over 1,000 races Team Hoyt completed, including marathons, duathlons, and triathlons (six of them being Ironman competitions). Adding to their list of achievements, Dick and Rick also biked and ran across the U.S. in 1992, completing a full 3,735 miles in 45 days. Someone asked Rick once that 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 officially Team Hoyt’s 1000th race.
For Team Hoyt, life may not have been fair, yet with what they were given they accomplished seemingly insurmountable things. Like Team Hoyt, you can accomplish great things even when all seems lost.