“and in the wilderness. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.” Deuteronomy 1:31
Sometimes Dads get the short end of the stick. Moms get cool gifts on Mother’s Day. When the star running back scores the winning touchdown and the camera zooms in for the close-up, he almost always says, “Hi Mom!” Dads aren’t supposed to show pain or weakness or cry in public — even when our heart may be breaking on the inside. On Father’s Day, we smile and tell the family that the new tie is exactly what we wanted. And you know what? That’s okay.
Dick Hoyt is in his seventies now. He recently completed his 32nd Boston Marathon. Impressive. But what if I told you he ran all 32 Boston Marathons while pushing his son?
Rick Hoyt is 52. Life has been hard. You see, Rick was born with cerebral palsy. He hasn’t been able to walk or speak on his own his entire life. He never had the chance to live a “normal” life. As an infant, doctors told Dick and Judy to institutionalize Rick due to his condition. Dick insisted on bringing his boy home to live.
Dick saw life in his son’s eyes. He enrolled Rick in public school and even arranged to get him a computerized wheelchair that allowed him to communicate via eye movements. Rick finally had a voice.
In 1977, Rick told his father that he wanted to participate in a 5-mile benefit run for a Lacrosse player who had been paralyzed in an accident. The problem was Dick was not a runner and had never completed a race — much less one where he’d have to push an adult human being. Well, Team Hoyt finished the race in next-to-last place. But life changed that night when Rick told his father, “Dad, when I’m running, it feels like I’m not handicapped.”
From that day on, Dick has dedicated a significant portion of his life to participating in races with Rick. They’ve run over 1,000 of them. The pair has even completed six Ironman triathlons! To top it all off, the pair biked across the United States (that is almost 4,000 miles) in 45 days.
Through the aging process and the pain, Dick has run on — all with Rick in his arms. For over 50 years, he has seen the potential and the light in his son’s eyes when no one did. Rick has grown up, gotten his college degree, found a job, and even has his own home.
Dick Hoyt announced last year that 2013 would be the last Boston Marathon for Team Hoyt. The pair had completed 25 miles when the bombs exploded. They didn’t finish. This year, the man who has become the Pride of Boston said Team Hoyt would be in once again. They felt it important to run for the people of Boston trying so hard to heal from the tragic events of last spring.
Team Hoyt finished this year’s race surrounded by a police escort while thousands roared along Boylston Street.
Dick Hoyt isn’t just a father — he’s a dad. He has carried Rick to the finish line for 37 years. Rick was asked once what gift he’d give his dad if he could give him anything in the world. He said, “The thing I’d most like is for my dad to sit in the chair and I would push him for once.”
I’m pulling for you Rick. And Happy Father’s Day Dick Hoyt. Thank you for showing me how this Dad thing is done.
Director of Operations
Johns Creek Baptist Church