Hoyts’ last Marathon caps legacy of inclusion

HOLLAND, Mass. (WWLP) – On Monday, April 21st, Rick and Dick Hoyt will be running their last Boston Marathon together, marking more than three decades of father-son long-distance competitions, and a lifetime legacy of opening doors for people with disabilities.  Dick told 22News it all came about because Rick wanted to help someone 34 years ago.

The message for Team Hoyt is “Yes, you can.”

On April 21st, Dick will push Rick for his 32rd, and final Boston Marathon.  Last year was supposed to be Dick’s last “Boston.”  But they couldn’t finish because of the bombings at the finish line.

Dick told 22News, “I stopped and asked a police officer at mile 23.  I says ‘is anything going on?  He said ‘yes, two bombs had exploded at the finish line.”

Dick was filled with terror.  He had 40 friends and family in the stands right across from the explosions.  Luckily, everyone in the stands across from the blast escaped injury.

At almost 74 years old with some lumbar vertabrae that may need surgery, Dick’s cutting back on the distance, but his legacy is set:  He and Rick have defined “disability inclusion,” the concept  that everyone deserves to participate regardless of ability.

“You know when Rick was born they said, forget him.  Put him in an institution.  He’s gonna be nothing but a vegetable for the rest of his life.  He’s 52.  We haven’t figured out what kind of vegetable he is,” Dick joked.

52 years ago, Rick and his late wife Judy brought Rick home, and raised him.  Once he learned to read, Rick communicated with his brothers and parents by identifying words, one letter at a time and blinking his eyes.  Now he has high tech help, using a computer to communicate.

Rick told 22News, “I feel very proud because when we first wanted to run in the Boston Marathon they did not want us.  And now there is a bronze statue in Hopkinton Near the start line.”  22News was there in Hopkinton when that statue was unveiled last June.  Created by sculptor Mike Tabor, and entitled “Yes, you can,” it inspires thousands of marathoners, families and people with disabilities everywhere.

Dick said it all started in 1980, when Rick told his father he wanted to participate in a benefit for a Westfield State College student who’d been paralyzed from the waist down in an accident.

“And that’s when Rick came home and said, ‘Dad, I have to do something for him.  I wanna let him know that life goes on even though he’s paralyzed.  I wanna run in the race.’  And at the time I was 40 years old, and I wasn’t a runner!”

They finished that 5-mile fun-run, with Dick wearing the number double-zero.  1100 athletic events and 71 marathons later, Rick is proud of what they’ve accomplished.  While this will be Dick’s last Boston Marathon, Rick wants to continue to compete, and recruit new members of Team Hoyt.

“The next phase for me is another runner from Team Hoyt pushing me.  Or perhaps Barry.  You should come out from behind the News Desk and push me in the fun run.”  (A bit of Rick’s sense of hunor.)

Other families have launched “Team Hoyt” Chapters in San Diego and Virginia Beach which has 150 members.   A “Team Hoyt New England” is also growing.  Running teams can now push light-weight, specially designed “Team Hoyt” chairs.  Each one of them with the Team Hoyt Motto on the front, where it will cross the finish line first.

Dick says proudly, “Our message is ‘Yes you can.’ There isn’t anything you can’t do as long as you make up your mind to do it.”

 

 

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