By Liz Ricketson, Contributing Writer
Northborough – The Lincoln Street School welcomed two special guests Sept. 13 – the inspirational father/son duo, Dick and Rick Hoyt. The duo is well-known for father Dick pushing son Rick in a racing wheelchair in numerous marathons and triathlons throughout the world.
The school's principal Jennifer Parson noted that the school was honored to host the two and that the students had been practicing the Hoyts” rallying cry, “Yes You Can” all week long.
Along with Physical Education teacher Patricia Rollins, the Lincoln Street School has made a strong commitment to health and as such, wanted to share the Hoyts” ?”can do” message with the school's students.
In the assembly, the Hoyts discussed some of their experiences and how they faced and overcame obstacles throughout the years.
While it is extraordinary athletic prowess that allows the Hoyts to cover untold miles, it is also an incredible story of love and devotion between a father and son.
Dick said he is amazed at the attention they receive when they speak and compete worldwide. This humble man and inspirational son still compete for the same reason they first did 34 years ago and over 1100 events later because as Rick said, “When we run my disability disappears and I am as free as a bird.”
Rick was an active baby but his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck causing a lack of oxygen rendering him with a diagnosis of spastic quadriplegic with Cerebral Palsy( CP). Doctors recommended that Dick and Judy Hoyt institutionalize their son but his parents made a firm and committed decision that they would bring Rick up like any other child.
Rick was mainstreamed in the public school system, graduated from high school and earned a degree from Boston University in 1993.
“My family has always been there for me,” Rick explained, which includes his brothers Rob and Russ. “I do not know what it is like to be disabled since I was born with CP and that is all I know.”
Initially the Hoyts” were rejected from participating in many events but the refusal to take “no” for an answer has propelled this team to great heights paving the path for others living with disabilities.
In 1992, challenging their resolve once again, they ran and biked across the United States covering 3,735 miles in 45 straight days. Dick was told it would be impossible without a day off but as planned they reached their Boston destination proving the naysayers wrong.
Rick is the first disabled person in the world to compete in the Kona, Hawaii, Ironman Triathlon Championship, and is also a member of the Kona Hall of Fame. Additionally, the two are recipients of the highly acclaimed ESPN Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Award.
The Hoyts first Boston Marathon was in 1981 and in 2014 they will run their last and final one, Dick said. Rick was only 19 years old when they first traveled the road from Hopkinton to Boston. This has been the event that he looks forward to all year long and he said he will “cherish all of the memories.”
Team Hoyt will continue to race in triathlons and shorter distance running events. Dick emphasized they “love to come to local events and support local schools and small charity events.” His dream, he said, is to see more races where participants push someone in a wheelchair, as he does with Rick.
Dick's last piece of advice to the students was, “Your education is the most important thing you can do.”