I know that this video made the rounds some time back, but just in case someone has not seen it I am posting it now. If you are unfamiliar with the Hoyts, please read the story before the watching the video. Trust me, it is worth it.
This is the story of Rick and Dick Hoyt, a father and son team from Massachusetts.
From their website:
At Rick’s birth in 1962 the umbilical cord coiled around his neck and cut off oxygen to his brain. Dick and his wife, Judy, were told that there would be no hope for their child’s development.
“It’s been a story of exclusion ever since he was born,” Dick told me. “When he was eight months old the doctors told us we should just put him away — he’d be a vegetable all his life, that sort of thing. Well those doctors are not alive any more, but I would like them to be able to see Rick now.”
The couple brought their son home determined to raise him as “normally” as possible. Within five years, Rick had two younger brothers, and the Hoyts were convinced Rick was just as intelligent as his siblings. Dick remembers the struggle to get the local school authorities to agree: “Because he couldn’t talk they thought he wouldn’t be able to understand, but that wasn’t true.” The dedicated parents taught Rick the alphabet. “We always wanted Rick included in everything,” Dick said. “That’s why we wanted to get him into public school.”
A group of Tufts University engineers came to the rescue, once they had seen some clear, empirical evidence of Rick’s comprehension skills. “They told him a joke,” said Dick. “Rick just cracked up. They knew then that he could communicate!” The engineers went on to build — using $5,000 the family managed to raise in 1972 – an interactive computer that would allow Rick to write out his thoughts using the slight head-movements that he could manage. Rick came to call it “my communicator.” A cursor would move across a screen filled with rows of letters, and when the cursor highlighted a letter that Rick wanted, he would click a switch with the side of his head.
When the computer was originally brought home, Rick surprised his family with his first “spoken” words. They had expected perhaps “Hi, Mom” or “Hi, Dad.” But on the screen Rick wrote “Go Bruins.” The Boston Bruins were in the Stanley Cup finals that season, and his family realized he had been following the hockey games along with everyone else. “So we learned then that Rick loved sports,” said Dick.
In 1975, Rick was finally admitted into a public school. Two years later, he told his father he wanted to participate in a five-mile benefit run for a local lacrosse player who had been paralyzed in an accident. Dick, far from being a long-distance runner, agreed to push Rick in his wheelchair. They finished next to last, but they felt they had achieved a triumph. That night, Dick remembers, “Rick told us he just didn’t feel handicapped when we were competing.”
Rick’s realization turned into a whole new set of horizons that opened up for him and his family, as “Team Hoyt” began to compete in more and more events. Rick reflected on the transformation process for me, using his now-familiar but ever-painstaking technique of picking out letters of the alphabet:
” What I mean when I say I feel like I am not handicapped when competing is that I am just like the other athletes, and I think most of the athletes feel the same way. In the beginning nobody would come up to me. However, after a few races some athletes came around and they began to talk to me. During the early days one runner, Pete Wisnewski had a bet with me at every race on who would beat who. The loser had to hang the winner’s number in his bedroom until the next race. Now many athletes will come up to me before the race or triathlon to wish me luck.”
As a father, a someone who believes that all lives have dignity and value, and an IronMan finisher, this video absolutely kills me. For some reason, every time I watch it I get dust in my eyes. What?! Shut up! I am NOT crying!