For better than three decades, Dick and Rick Hoyt have lived out their "Yes You Can" mantra in their every moment, their every action, and through every human life that they have been fortunate enough to touch.
Since their first race, a five-mile benefit run, in the spring of 1977 where Dick pushed, then 15-year-old, Rick in his wheelchair, the famed Father/Son race team has logged 1,000 plus races over a seemingly countless number of miles, while spreading the very meaning of the words courage, love and can-do attitude over each and every step of their journey.
Once per year for the past nineteen, Dick and Rick Hoyt play host, instead of mere participant, to the Team Hoyt 5K Walk/Run over the hilly terrain of the "Watch City", Waltham, MA. This past Thursday night, over 340 runners of all ages and abilities, joined the Hoyt's during this popular annual athletic event.
Dick Hoyt, who will be celebrating his 71st birthday on June 1st, provides the arms and legs for his son, Rick, age 49, who was born a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy. Rick graciously provides the heart, the soul and enthusiasm which keeps the world-famous duo competing. The Hoyts look forward to the event which bares their name, nearly as much as they do any of the many the events they simply participate in.
"The whole event went great. The weather was outstanding and very well attended," explained Dick, who was quick to thank the American Legion Hall in Waltham, MA. "They generously donate their hall for us to use each year for the race and the post race festivities."
"Everyone had fun at the race and the pizza and pasta dinner afterwards. All the runners are astonished every year that we are able to hand out 300 door prizes - from Timex Ironman watches to cases of beer to Sports Illustrated subscriptions. We enjoy putting this race on every year and we look forward to our 20th Annual 5K road race next year."
The event, which included a 5K run/walk, as well as, a children's fun run, was won by David Long, of Beverly, MA, who broke the tape in a time of 17:41. Long, who runs with the Wicked Running Club, is the reigning champion as he was also the winner of the 2010 edition of the Team Hoyt race with a similar time of 17:32.
The first female finisher was hometown favorite, Jill Wilder of Waltham, who crossed the finish line in a time of 19:55. Wilder bettered her 2010 time by roughly three minutes when she ran the course in 22:54 and finished as the sixth top female participant.
Still recovering from a torn hamstring, Dick, and Rick, finished with a time of 31:12. When asked about their time, Dick chuckled, "It's a pretty good time for an old man with injuries."
Dick, and of course Rick, was bested by his 10 year-old grandson, Ryan Hoyt - who had a finish time of 30:06, as well as his 13 year-old grandson, Troy Hoyt, who had a finish time of 23:54 and placed first in the 14 and under category. Those times may indicate that another generation of Hoyt runners will be dominating local courses over the next generation.
All in all, however, the Annual Hoyt Race doesn't just belong to the speed merchants, but also to the many "Yes You Can" type stories which, in essence, have been made possible by the barriers the Hoyt's helped to break through over the course of the last three decades. Through their efforts, and the thousands upon thousands of people they motivate and inspire to conquer life's daily challenges, people like Kirk Joslin, Mary McManus, and Justin Oconnell see the event as a way to not only compete, but as a way to inspire and further pen their own individual motivational stories.
Joslin, who is President and CEO of Easter Seals Massachusetts said, "Each year, Sheila and I sponsor a team of runners from Easter Seals for the Team Hoyt 5K. It’s our way of celebrating a longtime relationship with the Hoyts, while honoring the memory of our son, Matthew."
Joslin, who promotes Easter Seals Massachusetts at many events throughout each year, added, "We have known Dick and Rick for nearly 40 years. Sheila, my wife and a grandmother of five, was very proud to win a first place trophy in this year’s race. Yes You Can!"
McManus of Chestnut Hill, MA ran the Team Hoyt 5K with her husband, Tom. She traversed the 3.1 mile course wearing her Team Hoyt, "Yes You Can" dog tag. McManus, a member of Rotary International, knows all about a "Yes You Can" attitude. She contracted paralytic polio at the age of five and in 2006 was diagnosed with post polio syndrome. That doesn't stop her, however, from being out there running on the roads and passionately working to create a polio free world as part of Rotary's "End Polio Now" campaign.
McManus was excited to be running her second Team Hoyt 5K. "It's always a thrill to be in the presence of Team Hoyt and Kathy Boyer (Team Hoyt office manager). This year was especially magical because I had the opportunity to meet Facebook friends in person such as the inspiring, Justin Oconnell."
She added, "If we could bottle up the love, energy, "YES YOU CAN" attitude, and pure heart that was evident at the Team Hoyt 5K road race this year, all of the world's problems would be gone!"
To anyone who knows, Justin Oconnell, he too is the epitome of inspiration. Oconnell, age 20, from Blackstone, MA, finished the course in a time of 38:36, despite suffering daily with scoliosis. The diminutive and ever positive, Oconnell competed again just three days later in his first half marathon, "The 2011 Run to Remember", where he finished the 13.1 mile journey in 3 hours and 28 minutes.
"I feel truly honored to be able to run 13 miles. I remember when I could not walk three feet, but now I'm a half-marathon runner. Pain is only temporary. Pride is forever. Scoliosis changed my life."
Oconnell, who benefits from the tireless work done by Easter Seals, added, "I'm wearing my finishers medal very proudly. I finished all 13.1 miles. It's a journey I will never forget. I would like to do another and maybe join Team Hoyt in the Boston Marathon next April. Today was for all my friends at Children's Hospital and for Scoliosis Awareness."
"I'm so proud of myself. Heck yes, I'm a champ."
Just a few of the many "Yes You Can" stories witnessed on streets of Waltham last Thursday.
Each made possible by the journey of Dick and Rick Hoyt.
Team Hoyt has recently published 2 books -Rick's Story - The Story of Rick Hoyt - written by Sherrie Ninteau. This is the inspiring and touching story of Rick Hoyt, written for children, to teach them about disability awareness and overcoming obstacles and Devoted - The Story of a Father's Love For His Son - written by Dick Hoyt with Don Yaeger. Both of these books portray the Team Hoyt message of "YES YOU CAN". You can check out these books on the store link to the Team Hoyt website.
Todd Civin is a freelance writer and the Social Media Director for Team Hoyt. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org for comment or hire.