The story of Dick Hoyt’s commitment to his son Rick is one of the most amazing stories I have ever seen or heard. It is almost beyond comprehension. It is the story of a father’s love and his absolute commitment to his son which is carried out in the most extraordinary way.
Rick was born in 1962 with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck, and as a result has cerebral palsy. Doctors told his parents to put their son in an institution because he would be nothing but a vegetable for the rest of his life. Rick’s mother, Judy, was absolutely furious, “This was my baby and there was no way I was gonna put him anywhere.” She fought with everybody to make sure he was not discriminated against, “No, you’re not going to leave my child out of things. He’s gonna do what he’s supposed to do.”
Thanks to his mother and father, Rick went on to complete high school and even to finish university. That’s pretty good for a guy who can’t write, talk or barely move. It says a lot about Rick, but it also shows the power of a family’s love as well as the Engineering Department at Tufts University who built Rick’s communication interface.
It was through this interface that Rick indicated his desire to go in a running race with his dad, who wasn’t a runner. Rick and Dick entered their first race in 1977, a 5 mile benefit run for an injured lacrosse player who was a schoolmate of Ricks. That day changed Rick’s life. “Dad,” he typed, “When we were running it felt like I wasn’t disabled anymore!” Since then Rick and Dick have competed in 984 events (as of 31st August 2008), 229 triathlons, 6 of which were ironman competitions, 20 dualthons and 66 marathons. As if that isn’t enough they have also biked and run across the USA in 1992, a 3,735 mile journey that took them 45 days. Sam Nall has written a book about their experiences called ‘It’s Only a Mountain: Dick and Rick Hoyt -Men of Iron’.
When I looked at the YouTube link I asked myself, “Why is this story so deeply moving for me?” Probably the best way to articulate my reaction is to let you read one of the many thousands of letters and emails that Dick receives each year.
I write this because I am a father and to my shame I have been nothing like you Dick. I have been selfish more than I have been selfless. I am not raising my son the way I had intended to raise him and up to this point you could say I have failed. But yesterday in a moment’s time I was changed. My heart was broken when I saw how much you must love your son to put yourself through such agony that he might experience the thrill of the race. Yesterday it became less about me and more about being my children’s father. I thank you sir. Another father.
As the interviewer read these words to Dick & Rick Hoyt, Dick just started to weep. Even Rick was visibly moved. The interviewer then made the comment, “You are a hero to many and most importantly you are a hero to Rick.” Dick choking back the tears said, “I am myself and I just love my family and I just want to be the very best father I can be.”
It is hard not to be moved by this story of a father’s love. Hopefully it has inspired you, just as it did the father who wrote that letter.
Remember it’s ‘less about us and more about our children’.
Yours for our children
PS If you have any friends who would be interested in receiving the Dads4Kids weekly newsletter encouragement for dads, why don’t you forward it to them and then subscribe them? Make sure you let them know they can unsubscribe at any time, but also that you have subscribed them because you believe that they are fathers who want to be, as Dick Hoyt says, ‘the very best father I can be’.