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Father-son team is an inspiration.

When Rick Hoyt was born in 1962, the umbilical cord became tangled around his neck, cutting off oxygen to his brain. At birth, he was a quadriplegic with cerebral palsy, and he was unable to learn to speak. Doctors suggested that Rick's parents, Dick and Judy, place him in an institution, but the Hoyts refused to listen. They, instead, chose to raise Rick as any other child, schooling him and including him in all of their activities.

In 1972, engineers at Tufts University in Boston developed an interactive computer that allowed Rick to communicate by using slight head movements to select letters with which he could form words that would appear on a computer screen. The very first words Rick typed on his communicator were "Go Bruins" (the Boston NHL hockey team), which signaled his love of sports.

Twenty-five years ago, Rick learned about a five-mile run to benefit a lacrosse player paralyzed in an accident. He suggested to his Dad that the two enter as a team, with the elder Hoyt pushing him in a wheelchair. But Dick had never participated in a long-distance race and had doubts. The duo finished next to last, but they nevertheless experienced a sense of satisfaction and triumph over adversity.

Since that first run, Dick and Rick have participated in 64 marathons, 20 duathlons, 206 triathlons, and six punishing Ironman events, each of which features a 26.2-mile marathon, 112 miles of cycling, and 2.4 miles of swimming. They competed in the famous Boston Marathon 24 times. When the two men compete as runners, Dick pushes Rick in a wheelchair; when they swim, Dick tows Rick in a small boat; and when they cycle, Rick sits in a seat attached to Dick's bike.

When asked to reflect on their 25-plus years of successes by Jen McNeill of the Carey O'Donnell PR Group, publicists for the Marathon of the Palm Beaches, Dick said, "We honestly don't have time to stop and think about it! Rick and I are always on the move, going from one race to the next. We certainly never thought when we started that we'd be competing in marathons, triathlons or Ironman competitions. For us, it's about helping a lot of people, and not just the disabled. It's a great feeling when able-bodied people come up to us after we race to tell us how we've inspired them to get in shape and participate in marathons and triathlons. It motivates us to compete more and more."

Rick graduated from Boston University in 1993 with a degree in special education, and he now works at Boston College's computer laboratory. He helped scientists develop software that allows a paralyzed person to control a computer through eye movements. His father, Dick, served his country in the Air National Guard for 35 years and retired as a lieutenant colonel.

In a Sports Illustrated article, writer Rick Reilly recorded some of Rick's typed observations, including this tribute to his dedicated father: "Dad is one of my role models. Once he sets out to do something, Dad sticks to it whatever it is, until it's done. For example, once we decided to really get into triathlons, Dad worked out up to five hours a day, five times a week, even when he was working."
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Title Annotation:THE GOODNESS OF AMERICA
Author:Mass, Warren
Publication:The New American
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 16, 2006
Words:548
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