Thursday, November 19, 2009

Happy To Share My Space With "A Little Bit About Sternaman"

Through my promoting of the award winning children's story, A Glove of Their Own, I have been introduced to some tremendous human beings and some absolutely incredible causes.

Coach Bob Salomon, the coach of A Glove of Their Own has a heart the size of New Jersey and tries to help every first class human being and every worthwhile cause he can through the Pay It Forward message of the book.

As the unofficial media department for Bob and his book, I am often introduced to the many friends from the sports world that Bob makes and often try to promote their cause through the gift of writing that I've been blessed with.

Earlier this week, Bob introduced me to a new friend, Gary Bennett, a former major League catcher for 13 seasons with the Phillies, and six other clubs. Bennett, whose heart is equal in size to Salomon's, has immersed himself in the Sternyway Foundation, a registered non-profit 501(c)(3) application pending organization whose principle purpose is to provide need based funding for children to support their participation in school and/or community sponsored athletic programs.

The Sternyway Foundation was formed to honor Gregg Sternaman, long time coach in several sports at Highland Park High School out side of Chicago. Bennett had told Bob Salomon that there are "certain human beings who grace our presence that make an indelible impact on the lives of everyone they come in contact with and Coach Sternaman is such a soul ."

He shared several stories with Salomon including what appears to be "the Coaches final quarter."

"In November, 2001, Coach Sternaman noticed a bleeding mole on the middle of his back. After a biopsy, it was discovered that Coach had level one melanoma skin cancer.

"Surgery was performed to remove lymph nodes to guard against the melanoma metastasizing. Coach Sternaman was treated with interferon for a month. With regular follow up visits to the doctor, he remained cancer free for eight years."

"In the past two weeks, it was discovered that the melanoma has returned. He has late stage metastatic melanoma which has spread to his brain, lung, and other body parts. Coach is currently undergoing brain radiation and oral chemotherapy. The typical survival rate for this cancer is four months to one year."

The story, of course, moved both Salomon and me and we decided to write a story about the Coach.

I visited the Foundation site hoping to harvest enough information to write a fitting tribute to Coach Sternaman. I hoped that my word-smithing would move my readers enough to become involved.

When I got to the site, and started doing my research, it become evident that the words written on the site are written by a far better writer than me and that my craft and abilities aren't needed to tell Coach S's story.

So, instead of writing new words, about a man who I someday hope to meet, I'll simply share the words that have already been written and encourage you to not only say a prayer for Coach Sternaman, but to donate to his cause.

And if you happen to be in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park IL this Saturday, stop in and meet the Coach along with former White Sox slugger Ron Kittle and former Bears star Brian Bashnagel. Visit the site for details.

So without wasting any more of your time with my thoughts and words, I hope to share, A Little Bit About Sternaman...God Bless...

A Little Bit About Sternaman

Once in every athletes' life, if they are lucky, they encounter a very special coach.

This is the guy you think about years later. This is the guy whose teaching resonates in your head as you face life's challenges. This is the guy who not only made you a better football or baseball player, or wrestler...but made you a better human being.

Almost any coach can teach X's and O's...but few can impact a young person by teaching strength in body and character, dignity, confidence and independent thinking. This is a guy who shows you the value of hard work, the benefits of mental preparation, the importance of loving your teammates.

This is Gregg Sternaman.

A man who simultaneously is the simplest...and most complex man.

For 20 years Sternaman chose to coach high school and youth sports. He could have been a financial manager or businessman, but instead he remained true to his instincts and life's passion by coaching young people.

The name Sternaman became identified as a tough coach and a tough guy. He rarely used his first name, Sternaman really said it all. As his years of coaching grew, so did his legend.

Stories of Sternaman drawing blood from his forehead as he busted a clipboard over his head "to make a point" at halftime of a football game. Or challenging a football player, more than half his age and twice his size, to a "bull in the ring" competition spread throughout the communities he touched.

Sternaman rarely thought twice about pulling a pitcher from a baseball game in the middle of an inning, or even in the middle of a particular batter. If Sternaman saw a player sleeping or loafing in the field, he would yank that guy immediately...and give him an earful to boot.

Parents were not absolved from Sternaman's wrath either. As parents frequently do, they would contest a coach's call during the game, or ask why their son or daughter wasn't getting more playing time.

This was a good time for everyone else to vacate the field. It was only a matter of time before Sternaman put that parent in their place. These occurrences rarely happened more than once in any relationship with Sternaman.

He was known for making his point. And frequently did so through a series of colorful phrases that became known as Sternyism . The best of those have become part of sports lore throughout the North Shore of Chicago.

But as tough as he was, that is exactly how sensitive he was as well.

Sternaman was known to call an athlete at home at night to explain his actions from earlier that day. Usually, these calls included a lesson for that young person, and an open invitation to "try it again" the next day. Sternaman didn't have a dog house. He did have quite a development center.

Pushing young people to mature, to accept responsibility and to advocate for themselves, Sternaman welcomed a direct confrontation with any player...and treated that player with respect and kindness.

Even in the heat of battle, Sternaman was aware of the personal circumstances of his athletes and tried his best to provide life experiences for these young people. Whether it was pitching in a playoff game, or getting a chance to score a touchdown, Sternaman had a good sense of perspective about "the games" he coached.

His players learned to play hard for themselves, for their teammates...and in most instances, for Coach Sternaman.

For those of us privileged enough to play for him, or watch as our children did...Sternaman symbolized what youth sports is all about. That's why we tip our hats to Coach Sternaman. BR

Todd Civin is a freelance writer who writes for Bleacher Report, Sports, Then and Now , and Seamheads. He is a supporter of A Glove of Their Own, the award-winning children’s story that teaches paying it forward through baseball.Visit the site and purchase using today's featured donor code SMF197 The Sternyman Foundation as $3.00 from each sale will go to this wonderful charity.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Team Hoyt and Other Legends Show That Heroes Come In All Sizes

As my wife, Kate, and I took the right hand turn into the lot of Christina's Restaurant in Foxboro last night, my hands began to sweat. We had been asked to attend the Legends Ball to Benefit the Hockomock Area YMCA as dinner guests of Team Hoyt, and though excited, I have to admit I was a bit unnerved.

The thought of breaking bread with the immortal Dick and Rick Hoyt, while sitting in the shadows of some of the greatest heroes in New England sports made my heart palpitate at humming bird speed as I handed my keys to the valet.

We entered the beautiful chandelier lit lobby and I couldn't help but sneak a peek at the red lettered placards that lined the table in the lobby. Ordinary guys like me, had blue lettering, but the Legends who would grace our presence had their placards lettered in fancy red print.

Names like Ronnie Lippett, John Hannah, Steven King, Troy Brown, Pete Brock, and Steve Grogan, were flanked on either side by names of former Red Sox players including, Joe Morgan, Dick Beradino, Ted Lepcio, and Skip Lockwood, as well as Rick Middleton of the Bruins and Jeff Causey of the New England Revs.

Current Patriots players including Steven Neal, Matt Light, Pierre Woods, and even Joe Andruzzi of Patriots/Giants fame rounded out the roster of guests.

All in all, three dozen larger than life heroes would be joining us to eat, drink and talk sports all to benefit the well deserving boys and girls of the Hockomock Area YMCA.

"It doesn't get any better than this," I said to Katie as I spotted Dick and Rick in their tuxedos and their office manager and friend, Kathy, in her elegant black dress.

The Hoyt boys looked absolutely handsome in their black ties and tuxes. I shook Dick's hand and was awestruck at the strength and power in his muscular hand. A little might of a man with a powerful grip, Dick hardly resembles a man in his late sixties.

I leaned down and introduced myself to Rick and teased him about how soft his hands were. "You don't work hard enough," I joked. Rick looked up at me from his wheel chair and smiled with his huge patented grin.

His eyes had an amazing way of communicating his every thought as if to make up for his inability to communicate verbally.

Though I had done a story on the Hoyt's several weeks ago and have become very close to the Team since, I had never had the pleasure of meeting Rick in person prior to tonight. It rapidly gained a spot as one of my most special life moments.

Waitstaff brought tray upon tray of wonderful hors d'oeuvres and the bar was open throughout the cocktail hour, but I was more interested in the amazing blessing which had been bestowed upon us.

I watched with intrigue as Dick used a note pad and their intricate method of uncovering which letter Rick was attempting to say. The two worked tirelessly as Rick tried to communicate his thoughts.

"Is it an O..?" Dick asked, trying to corral the first letter of the word that Rick was trying to convey. Once they agreed on a vowel through a gentle nod of Rick's head, they would then try to hone in on the actual letter, which fell closest to the pinpointed vowel.

"Is it O by itself? Is it P...Q...R...S...T?

"It's a T," Dick confirmed as Rick nodded in agreement.

With the first letter in the word jotted down on Dick's scratch pad, it was an H as the second letter, after eliminating F and G, which followed the vowel E.

"It's an H," Dick said. "Is it The? Is it Thank you?" he inquired trying to expedite the process by randomly stabbing at Rick's intention.

Dick had read Rick's thoughts on guess number two and reduced the time needed to translate Rick's sentence. Clearly they've done this often enough over the years that they'd gotten pretty adept at the guessing game.

Rick nodded. "You want to say, Thank you for coming?" Rick nodded again.

I swallowed hard and held back my first tears of the night.

I quickly realized that though their running in marathons or competing in triathlons are amazing feats, merely finding the strength and courage to communicate, eat, laugh, and live each day may be more of a challenge than many of us would choose to take on.

Over the course of the evening I bonded with Rick, while trying to divide my time evenly between Kate, Dick, Kathy and Kirk, and Sheila Joslin, the President of Easter Seals, and his wife who were also residing at Table No. 30.

Our table was made complete by Rick's PCA (Personal Care Attendant), Mike, who fed Rick, gave him frequent sips of water and chatted with him endlessly through out the event.

But, it was Rick who grabbed the lions share of my attention as we joked about finding him three blondes to complete his perfect night. "Boys will be boys," Katie whispered to me.

There were several magic moments over the course of the evening that made my heart grow exponentially.

The first occurred when I accompanied Dick and Rick to the VIP room as they signed posters along side the other Legends. Though the pile of posters was about 40-50 deep, Dick placed a sharpie in Rick's hand and held it as the two of them combined to write Rick's autograph.

Perhaps easier for Dick to write Rick's name for him or to simply sign as Team Hoyt, the two wouldn't even consider this. It would have been out of line with what they stand for and the "Yes, You Can" message they promote.

Matt Light, Stephen Neal, Joe Andruzzi, and Troy Brown entered the room and I, again, started to perspire. Never had I been in the presence of one, let alone six, sports legends.

The quartet entered the room laughing and joking and, I sense, were mildly impressed by their own notoriety.

Until they saw the Hoyts.

Each of the four stopped dead in their tracks. Their eyes widened as they realized who, they, too, were in the presence of. Light, especially was awestruck and said to Dick and Rick how honored he was to meet them.

The other three joined Light in their acknowledgment and Andruzzi, who himself has overcome amazing challenges after battling non-Hodgkin lymphoma, agreed to let Rick try on his Super Bowl ring.

In addition to requesting the blondes, Rick had expressed a wish to try on a ring and Andruzzi obliged. However, before he pulled it from his enormous hand the legends were called away to be announced to the anxious crowd.

The crowd of 300 looked on as each of the Legends was escorted to their tables by special needs athletes from the Hockomock Y. Several of the legends high-fived their escorts playfully to the thrill and jubilation of their escort and the crowd.

The legends received warm ovations from the crowd as each was announced. Tim Fox, Jim Bowman, Jon Williams, Billy Johnson, John Smith, Tom Yewcic, and even Patrick Sullivan of Patriots' days gone by were presented one by one by master of ceremonies, Butch Stearns, of Fox25 News and WEEI fame.

When my guys were announced, however, the crowd stood and cheered in a rousing, and well deserved ovation. As Dick wheeled Rick in, the crowd honored them with the most overwhelming ovation of the event.

Throughout the evening, dozens of men and women shook the Hoyts' hands, posed for photos, and thanked them for being inspirations to so many throughout the world. My two, extremely humble, friends took it all in stride and thanked their fans for thanking them.

As our evening ended I again whispered to Kate, "It simply doesn't get any better than this."

And then, of course, it did.

As Rick was getting prepared to be wheeled out of the banquet hall, Andruzzi rushed over and reminded Rick of the promise to wear his Super Bowl ring.

Rick smiled that patented grin as Andruzzi slipped the ring onto his soft little hand. Andruzzi's enormous ring could have laid claim to three of Rick's fingers as the three giants posed for another Kodak moment.

It became amazingly clear to me that heroes come in all different sizes.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Rest of the Story: The Joe Niekro Foundation and the Arizona Fall League

"And that's the rest of the story" was, of course, the famous phrase uttered countless times by the late, great, Paul Harvey.

For those readers too young or too sheltered to remember the immortal radio legend, Harvey gave listeners the endings to stories that were newsworthy one day and faded away from our memories the next. Harvey would present to listeners the happy or ironic outcome of a story long since forgotten.

I often think about how many times readers, watchers, or listeners become enthralled by the beginning and middle of a story and are never given the opportunity to hear the "and they lived happily ever after" piece.

So in hopes of righting a journalistic wrong, I've tracked down my favorite knuckleballer's favorite little girl to see how Natalie Niekro and The Joe Niekro Foundation made out at the expense of the whiffers from the Arizona Fall League.

In my story, "The Joe Niekro Foundation Throws Its Pitch to Arizona Fall League Fans," Natalie told of her planned event with the AZ Fall League to celebrate her late father's birthday while raising funds and awareness of the wonderful foundation.

The week-long event coincided with the third anniversary of Niekro's passing from a brain aneurysm in 2006. Natalie and the rest of the Niekro family, including her brother Lance, a knuckleballer in the Atlanta Braves system, and her uncle Phil, the Hall of Fame knuckleballer and brother of Joe.

With the support of longtime baseball executive Roland Hemond and Steve Cobb, the executive director of the Arizona Fall League, along with several generous sponsors, over $26,000 was raised for the Foundation during the week-long event as donations of $36 per strikeout were made for any pitcher wearing the uniform of one of Joe's former teams (Chicago Cubs, SD Padres, Atlanta Braves, Detroit Tigers, Houston Astros, NY Yankees, and Minnesota Twins).

"It was incredible," explained Natalie, who shared the results with me via e-mail while fighting a bout with the flu. "$11,088 was raised just through the $36 per sponsor per strikeout, but then each team also committed to donate their team's total in strikeouts, raising an additional $2,772.

"Then my husband and I matched the overall total, so collectively we raised over $26, 000."

According to its Web site, "The Joe Niekro Foundation is committed to aiding in the research and treatment of aneurysm patients and families. Our goal is to raise awareness about aneurysm factors, causes, treatments and research. All funds are used to educate the public about brain aneurysms, to support patients and families, and to develop awareness programs and educational materials for hospitals, clinics, and other institutions worldwide."

Natalie expressed tremendous gratitude to the four sponsors of the event, Coulter Motor Company, Ms. Patrice Schuttler, Pure Fitness, and Mr. Matthew Tarini, CFP, with the Wells Fargo Financial Network, LLC, each of whom donated $36 per whiff for an actual total of $144 per punchout.

In addition to the much-appreciated payday, Natalie was especially overwhelmed with the wonderful fan response and support of the event.

"It went exceptionally well," she said. "(The fans) were very receptive, and throughout the week I had people contact me stating they were at the game and wanted to share their story of a loved one they had lost to an aneurysm."

During the festivities, Natalie experienced several highlights that will long be entrenched into her memory of the first time event.

"The week was definitely a hard one in that it marked the three-year date of Dad’s passing," explained Natalie, who raised over $400,000 for the Foundation at the Inaugural Knuckle-ball last July. "Also, Nov. 7, the culmination of Brain Aneurysm Awareness Week and the date I addressed the crowd at the Rising Stars Game, would have been my father’s 65th birthday.

"And, what a gift I was able to give him—a check for over $26,000, all going to a cause that will prevent others from experiencing what he did."

Natalie was equally impressed by the support of the players throughout the event.

"I was definitely amazed and quite humbled at the support from the teams, even the players were getting behind it. They were tweeting about it and talking it up on their Facebook pages," she said.

Natalie concluded our follow-up discussion by sharing her future goals and plans for the foundation: "I see it as an opportunity to do this on a national level with all seven of these teams during the regular season—that is my goal and something I am already working on."

And that's the rest of the story!

Todd Civin is a freelance writer who writes for Bleacher Report, Sports, Then and Now, and Seamheads. He is also a supporter of, A Glove of Their Own, the award-winning children’s story that teaches paying it forward through baseball. The Joe Niekro Foundation is the most recent non-profit organization to join the A Glove of Their Own team and will earn $3.00 from each sale of the book purchased using the donor code JNF636 Joe Niekro Foundation.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Dick and Rick Hoyt: Real Life Super Heroes

Upon arriving at his home in rustic Holland, MA I anticipated seeing Dick Hoyt burst out of a phone booth, wearing tights, a super hero's cape and an "S" emblazoned across his chest. Much to my surprise, though not really, I found him dressed in a Team Hoyt t-shirt, running pants and sneakers, sweeping grass clippings off his drive way.

My thought being, of course, that if any man is truly faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, or able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, it's the elder half of the world renowned Team Hoyt.

Like a story out of Marvel comics, this real life superhero not only competes in triathlons while pushing, pulling and pedaling his 125-pound son Rick, but also carries the hope, the dreams and the heart of countless others on his broad shoulders through his efforts.

With his faithful side kick, Rick, the dynamic duo, known as Team Hoyt, is an inspiration to every special needs and able bodied athlete who is familiar with their story. Through their message of "Yes, You Can," they motivate and bring inspiration and hope to millions around the globe.

"We receive over 125 emails a day," explains Dick. "Some of them will make you cry. We get letters and emails from people who are distraught; some who were ready to kill themselves, but have gained new hope after seeing what Rick and I do."

Dick and Rick's story is truly one of superhuman love and devotion between a father and a son and in countless chapters of their never ending story, they have had to overcome challenges that would leave lesser men waving the white flag.

Their story is told as follows on their popular website .

"Rick was born in 1962 to Dick and Judy Hoyt. As a result of oxygen deprivation to Rick's brain at the time of his birth, Rick was diagnosed as a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy. Dick and Judy were advised to institutionalize Rick because there was no chance of him recovering, and little hope for Rick to live a "normal" life.

This was just the beginning of Dick and Judy's quest for Rick's inclusion in community, sports, education and one day, the workplace.

Dick and Judy soon realized that though Rick couldn't walk or speak; he was quite astute and his eyes would follow them around the room. They fought to integrate Rick into the public school system, pushing administrators to see beyond Rick's physical limitations.

Dick and Judy would take Rick sledding and swimming, and even taught him the alphabet and basic words, like any other child. After providing concrete evidence of Rick's intellect and ability to learn like everyone else, Dick and Judy needed to find a way to help Rick communicate for himself.

With $5,000 in 1972 and a skilled group of engineers at Tufts University, an interactive computer was built for Rick. This computer consisted of a cursor being used to highlight every letter of the alphabet. Once the letter Rick wanted was highlighted, he was able to select it by just a simple tap with his head against a head piece attached to his wheelchair.

When the computer was originally brought home, Rick surprised everyone with his first words. Instead of saying, "Hi, Mom," or "Hi, Dad," Rick's first "spoken" words were: "Go, Bruins!" The Boston Bruins were in the Stanley Cup finals that season. It was clear from that moment on, that Rick loved sports and followed the game just like anyone else.

In 1975, at the age of 13, Rick was finally admitted into public school. He has since attended high school, as well as attended Boston University, where he graduated with a degree in Special Education in 1993.

In the spring of 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. Far from being a long-distance runner, Dick agreed to push Rick in his wheelchair."

Race organizers believed that Dick and Rick would only make it as far as the first corner and then turn around. Much to their surprise, Team Hoyt finished the race, coming in next to last.

"At least we didn't come in last," recalls Hoyt.

That night, Rick told his father, "Dad, when I'm running, it feels like I'm not handicapped."

Upon hearing those word's, Dick Hoyt turned his son's wishes into a passion and a commitment that Rick would never again feel that he was handicapped. As of September, 2009, The Hoyt's have competed in:

  • 234 Triathlons (6 Ironman distances, 7 Half Ironman)
  • 21 Duathlons
  • 67 Marathons (27 Boston Marathons)
  • 8 18.6 Milers
  • 89 Half Marathons
  • 1 20K
  • 35 10 Milers
  • 31 Falmouth 7.1 Milers
  • 8 15K's
  • 212 10K's
  • 151 5 Milers
  • 4 8K's
  • 18 4 Milers
  • 119 5K's
  • 8 20 Milers
  • 2 11K's
  • 1 7K

Their total of 1,009 races to date is made even more incredible by the fact that Team Hoyt's times are often better than many able bodied runners.

"We usually beat the guys in my age group who are running on their own," he laughs modestly.

"People often ask me if they can take my place when I decide to retire. I don't think there are many who could do what I do." explained Dick, who retired in 1995 as a Lt. Colonel from the Air National Guard, after serving his country for 37 years.

In addition to their 1,009 races, Team Hoyt spent a portion of 1992 pedaling and running across the US. They completed their 3,753 mile journey in 45 days, averaging 83 miles a day.

Dick and Judy Hoyt's marriage ended about the time of this journey, as she felt alienated and frustrated, wondering if Dick pushes Rick more than he wants. Rick has something to say when his willingness to race is questioned.

“I tell you the truth, it was my idea to begin running with my dad. I do see my role as the inspiration of Team Hoyt. Also, I was overwhelmed with a sense of happiness that I could show that life goes on beyond disability," Rick said.

While competing in the triathlon, Dick pulls Rick in a boat with a bungee cord attached to a vest around his waist and to the front of the boat for the 2.4 mile swimming stage. For the biking stage, which covers 112 miles, the duo rides a special two-seat bicycle, and then Dick pushes Rick in his custom made running chair for the 26.2 mile run.

"The biking portion is definitely the most difficult stage. We pedal my 175-pound frame, along with Rick's 125 pounds and a 76-pound bike. Most riders use a bike that weighs about 14 pounds and only have themselves," Dick said.

Dick actually couldn't swim prior to entering his first triathlon. He showed me the dock on the shores of Hamilton Reservoir where he learned to swim.

Several times during our interview, both Dick and I had to fight back tears as he spoke of their many challenges, moral victories and painful defeats.

Just this summer, Dick had to have surgery after it was discovered that he had been running with a hernia.

"I was having difficulty breathing while I ran, so decided I better have it checked out. Sure enough, the hernia was right here," he explained pointing to his navel.

In addition to their full schedule of competition, Team Hoyt travels the country giving motivational speeches to corporations and groups. The two speak of overcoming obstacles, their training schedule and their "Yes, You Can" message.

"I think we have become more popular outside Massachusetts than we are near home. We literally get communication from around the globe," Dick said.

One such email that Dick and his office manager, Kathy Boyer, shared with me comes from John Young, a triathlete from nearby Salem, MA.

Dick and Rick,

I emailed you a couple of years ago to tell you how much your story meant to me. Well, I feel it is time to give you a bit of an update. I am a 43 year old married man with a beautiful wife and 6 year old son. All of us have achondroplasia which is a type of dwarfism.

After dealing with a pretty serious back problem two years ago, I continued to ride my bike and swim. I was considering competing in a sprint triathlon but have always had a real problem running. Due to the type of dwarfism I have, there is a lot of pressure on my lower back and running is usually quite difficult.

Well, after getting a new bike this spring (my wife really wanted her's back) I continued to ride and swim and found out about the Aquabike division in the USAT and I actually competed in one up in Lowell, MA three weeks ago. It was an amazing time. All the while in the swim I could hear my six year old son yelling, "GO DADDY!".

Before my race he used his hands and transferred all of his "speed" from his shoes to me for the race. Well I finished near the bottom (of the pack not the river), but I finished. And like the message you both hope people get from what you do, I wanted my son to see that is not winning or losing that matters, but the fact that you simply try your best.

Well, I thought long and hard, and I have decided to enter the "Witch City Triathlon" this weekend in the town where I live, Salem, MA. It is a sprint distance again, and I am going to do the 3 mile run along with the 1/2 mile swim and 13 mile bike.

I have been doing some running and today finished 3 miles in the hot sun in about 51 minutes. Certainly not fast, but I did it.

Thanks for all you do. You both certainly helped motivate me to go out and do it.

Wish me luck. All the best, John Young

In 1989, the Hoyts created The Hoyt Foundation, a non-profit organization whose goal is to build the individual character, self-confidence, and self-esteem of America's disabled young people through inclusion in all facets of daily life; including in family and community activities, especially sports, at home, in schools, and in the workplace.

The foundation also provides advice and support to groups and individuals who share this mission. To date, the Hoyt Foundation has partnered with several organizations to show support for their cause through donations. Amongst them are The Easter Seals, The Pioneer Valley Therapeutic Riding Association, and The Challenged Athlete Foundation.

And if that isn't enough to elevate Team Hoyt to the level of super hero status, they opened Hoyt's Finish Line Restaurant last June. The Finish Line is located about a quarter-mile from Dick's home on the shores of Hamilton Reservoir and is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

But what the Hoyt's love most is the thrill of competing and motivating the throngs of fans, which line the races that they run.

“He motivates and inspires me. He’s a very tough guy, and he doesn’t let his disability get in the way of things he likes to do. I just feel now that Rick is the athlete and I’m but there just loaning him my arms and my legs so we can compete together,” Dick said.

As we wrapped up our conversation, I asked him through it all what his proudest moment has been.

"I think it would have to be that so many told us that they wouldn't even allow us to compete because I was able bodied and Rick was disabled. They'd look at us and tell me 'You can compete, but your son can't.' Well we were recently inducted into the Iron Man Triathlon Hall of Fame in Kona, Hawaii. Rick was the 26th member ever inducted and I was 27th. That makes us feel awfully special."

"I'm also very proud of the fact that Rick got his degree from Boston University and lives on his own. He may even begin to go out on his own and do motivational speaking without me. That makes me so proud."

As we concluded he told me one final story about Rick.

"Rick was once asked, if he could give his father one thing, what would it be, and Rick said, 'The thing I'd most like is for my dad to sit in the chair and I would push him for once.'"

And yet again the two real life superheroes fly up, up and away.

Visit Team Hoyt at their website and also on Facebook and Twitter @ TeamHoyt01521. Todd Civin is a freelance writer for Bleacher Report , Sports, Then and Now and Seamheads . He is a supporter of the children's book A Glove of Their Own. A Glove of Their Own is the award winning book which teaches pay it forward through sports.