Tuesday, July 25, 2006

C-A-N

Photo by Robert Oliver

Last weekend, my youngest daughter Meghan Lavin, a senior studying Kinesiology at the University of Minnesota, dropped off a CD at home for my wife and I to watch. Meg said: "Dad, I think you will love this."

The CD was a two-hour documentary about an Ironman Triathalon event held in Hawaii a few years back. For readers unfamiliar with the Ironman race, it’s a grueling test of athletic and mental endurance. The Ironman Triathalon includes a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike race, and a 26.2 mile marathan run! As I watched this Ironman race unfold, the 8 ½ mile run that I had taken earlier that morning was beginning to feel very wimpy with each passing event!

Frankly, I couldn’t tell you who won the race because I was so distracted by the interesting "behind the scenes" stories of individual athletes who had competed in the race. Make no mistake about it, Meg had sent the CD my way because she knew I would be impressed by the inspirational story of Team Hoyt. The Team Hoyt entry in Hawaii’s Ironman was a story about inclusion, determination, physical endurance, and the loving relationship of a father and son. I was glued to the TV.

Dick and Rick Hoyt live in the State of Massachusetts. In 1962, Rick was born with significant disabilities arising from complications during child birth. The doctors didn't give Rick's parents much hope for a "normal" life and recommended they consider placing him into an institution so his needs would be cared for. The Hoyt's refused.

But you know, those darn doctors were right. There isn’t much "normal" about Rick’s life at all today. According to the Team Hoyt Web Site, this father and son duo has participated in more than 900 marathans, triathalons, and other athletic events together! Wow!

What makes this story improbable is that Rick lives with significant disabilities and social barriers. He uses a wheelchair and communicates slowly but methodically through an electronic computer adaptation designed especially for him. Despite his speech and physical challenges, Rick has also completed college and lives independently in the community with support. The Team Hoyt story is indeed an inspirational testimony to the values of community inclusion and going the extra mile (if you will pardon the pun) to make it happen in the lives of people with significant disabilities.

I could try to tell you more about Team Hoyt and Rick’s life story but why let my inadequate words get in the way? This week a colleague of mine, Nancy Hoff, emailed me a condensed version of the very images I viewed in the Ironman Triathalon documentary. This four minute montage about Team Hoyt is appropriately entitled in Rick’s own words: CAN

To view this video, click here.

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