They started running marathons after Rick said he wanted to raise money to pay the medical bills of a lacrosse player who was paralyzed from the waist down.
Dick Hoyt, a Boston Marathon runner who pushed son, Rick Hoyt, in a wheelchair at the annual race for years on end, died at the age of 80 on March 17, 2021. The family announced Dick's death. "He had an ongoing heart condition that he had been struggling with for years and it just got the better of him," said Russ Hoyt, one of his sons. The death hit Rick hard. It was his brother Rob Hoyt who informed him of their father's death. Russ said his brother Rick is ok but sad. "You could see it in him, it was like someone hit him," said Russ, reported People.
Rick is quadriplegic and has cerebral palsy. Medical staff wrote him off, but his father was determined to give him a life he deserved. “When he was born, they said, ‘Put him away in an institution," Dick had said, according to People. "'He is going to be nothing but a vegetable for the rest of his life’. And we said, ‘No. We are going to bring home Rick home and bring him up like any other child.’”
Dick ran his first marathon pushing Rick on a wheelchair in 1977 after his son expressed his wish to help raise money to pay medical bills for a lacrosse player who had been paralyzed from the waist down in an accident. “Dad, I have to do something for him,” Rick told his father. “I want to let him know life goes on even though he is paralyzed. I want to run in the race.” Since then the pair have participated in more than 1,000 races together, a majority of which were marathons and triathlons. The pair were dubbed as Team Hoyt. They made their debut at the Boston Marathon in 1980, before becoming a regular fixture at the event for years to come. They would go on to complete the Boston Marathon 32 times before eventually, Rick retired in 2014.
The Boston Athletic Association released a statement in the wake of Dick's death. "The B.A.A. is tremendously saddened to learn of the passing of Boston Marathon icon Dick Hoyt. Dick personified what it meant to be a Boston Marathoner, showing determination, passion, and love every Patriots' Day for more than three decades," read the statement. The pair also have a statue honoring them at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. "He was not only a fan-favorite who inspired thousands, but also a loyal friend and father who took pride in spending quality time with his son Rick while running from Hopkinton to Boston. The pair's bond and presence throughout the course became synonymous with the Boston Marathon," continued the association's statement. "Dick Hoyt was one-of-a-kind. We will sincerely miss Dick, and are keeping his many family and friends in our thoughts and prayers."
The marathon also did wonders for Rick. "When we run it makes me feel like my disability disappears," Rick told People in 2013. The father-son duo also started the Hoyt Foundation, a non-profit organization that helps build the self-confidence and self-esteem of disabled young people in America, in 1989. They raise more than a million dollars by running, for various organizations including Easter Seals and the Children's Hospital Boston-Augmentative Communication Enhancement Program.
Cover image credit: Getty Images | Photo by Elsa/Getty Images