The Hoyts, a Father and Son to Whom Everything Is Possible

28 February, 2021
Almost no one talks about Dick and Rick as two separate individuals. Most simply say "the Hoyts" when referring to them. They're a father-son team that's now an example to thousands of people around the world.

The story of the Hoyts began in Winchester, New Haven, about five decades ago. The married couple was looking forward to the birth of their first child. Nevertheless, what was to be the happiest moment of their lives turned into an ordeal. The baby had problems at birth, during delivery, and the umbilical cord knotted around his neck. It kept oxygen from normally reaching the baby’s brain.

As consequence, the little boy ended up with a non-reversible brain injury. Doctors soon diagnosed him with cerebral palsy. They predicted the newborn would neither be able to speak nor control his limb movements.

“You know, I’m just a regular guy. I mow my lawn, shovel snow from the driveway, and change the oil in our vehicles. I do the grocery shopping and cook most of our dinners. I’m like any other man in America. Only I got lucky—I have a beautiful son and an activity we can do together, despite his disability. It’s been an incredible journey. I’m not a hero. I’m just a father. And all I did was tie on a pair of running shoes and push my son in his wheelchair.”

-Dick Hoyt-

Hard times for the Hoyts

The doctors met with the family when little Rick Hoyt was just nine months old. They told them it would be best to place him in a specialized institution. That he would be a burden to them, doomed to be in a practically vegetative state. However, they decided to keep him at home after much thought and countless days of crying. In addition, they also decided that they would treat him as a normal child as much as they could.

For 11 years, the Hoyts lavished all their love and care on little Rick. Just as the doctors predicted, he didn’t seem to respond to any environmental stimuli. One day, however, they noticed the boy was following them with his eyes wherever they went. It seemed he also understood much of what they said.

This small gesture filled them with hope and they went to the engineering department of Tufts University. They wanted to know if there was a device or any other way to communicate with the boy. The experts informed them there wasn’t, as the boy had no brain activity. Thus, the parents asked them to tell him a joke and Rick started laughing after they did.

The Hoyt brothers.

A new path of hope

The boy’s reaction impressed the engineers. Consequently, they set about the task of creating a system so he could communicate using only a small movement of his head. Everything was ready a year later. Everyone was anxious to hear Rick’s first words. To their surprise, he said, “Go Bruins!”, referring to a local field hockey team).

A new era began for the Hoyts. Everyone was thrilled about being able to communicate with Rick. They were even more delighted when they noticed he was active and responsive. He wanted to be involved in everything. Then, one of his teachers became paralyzed, so people organized a race to raise money for his treatment. Rick said he wanted to participate as he just needed to help this person who had fallen from grace.

The miracle of the Hoyts

The father agreed to enter the race alongside his son. The boy was in a wheelchair and Dick pushed him. At first, it was quite a challenge as the demands were high. In fact, it seemed impossible to overcome the obstacles along the way. However, the only goal was to not finish last and they didn’t. Rick had a big smile on his lips when they crossed the finish line.

Father and son in a race.

Later, Rick told his father something the man would never forget: “I felt like I wasn’t disabled”. He wanted to experience that feeling of crossing the finish line many more times. In 1979, Rick and Dick, Team Hoyt, competed in the Boston Marathon.

A couple of years later, they decided to try a triathlon. There was just one problem: the father couldn’t swim. The solution? Learn to do so. Dick learned to swim almost at the age of 50 just to be able to compete with his son. The challenge this time would be to push his son in a boat to complete the competition in the water. Of course, Rick was rather happy about participating in this new event. He always has a huge smile on his face whenever he crosses the finish line, even if he’s the last one.

The Hoyts have participated in 66 different marathons to this day and have completed 975 other events. Rick is now a graduate of Boston University who adores his father as much as his father adores him. He’s a cheerful person who likes to joke around. As if that wasn’t amazing enough, he’s now independent and happy, in his own words.