Today marks the start of Engineering Week 2014. This week, we will be showcasing some of the amazing and inspirational accomplishments of engineers, and how they have made our world better, more efficient, safer, and more technologically advanced…and also a little bit kinder.
Monday, February 17 — Team Hoyt and the Engineers Who Helped Them
Dick and Rick Hoyt are a father-son racing duo from Massachusetts who have inspired millions, and who have broken down many barriers for people with disabilities. But did you know that engineers are a big part of the Hoyts’ success? After Rick Hoyt suffered oxygen deprivation at birth due to his umbilical cord being wrapped around his neck, leaving him with cerebral palsy, doctors told his parents that he would always be non-responsive and should be institutionalized. The Hoyts weren’t buying it. They saw the way their son’s eyes followed them and the way he laughed at jokes. In 1972, armed with $5,000 and a love of their child, Dick and Judy Hoyt hired some engineers at Tufts who developed a device that allowed Rick to communicate with them by utilizing a computer on which he could type by tapping his head left or right. His first words? “Go Bruins!” Rick was later integrated into public school and went on to receive his bachelor’s degree in Special Education from Boston University, all thanks to the device that allowed him to communicate. He currently works at Boston College.
In 1977, Rick expressed an interest in running a charity 5K to support a local lacrosse player who had been paralyzed. Even though he was overweight and out of shape, Dick obliged and pushed his son in his wheelchair, a task that proved overwhelmingly difficult due to the weight of the chair and the awkward handling. Afterwards, Rick said he felt like he had no disability when he was running, and Dick knew that he needed to find a different chair so that they could run more races together. Once again, Dick and Judy hired local engineers, this time from MIT, and these engineers designed a racing wheelchair with lighter pipes, a single front wheel, and higher handles in which Dick could more easily push Rick. This incredible chair eventually gave birth to the jogger stroller, a now commonplace household device for families with young children, and also inspired thousands of others to push their disabled loved ones in races.
Dick and Rick Hoyt went on to race in over 1,000 races, including marathons, triathlons, and Ironmen, and broke down barriers for the disabled every step of the way. Pushing the disabled in wheelchairs, once prohibited and scorned, is now accepted and commonplace, all thanks to the love of a father for his son. This year’s Boston Marathon will mark the final running of the iconic event for the dynamic duo, now aged 73 and 51. Last year, the father and son team was honored by the unveiling of a bronze statue in their likeness at the start of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, and they were presented with the Jimmy V Perseverance Award at the ESPYS in Los Angeles. Team Hoyt is now a well-known charitable organization that inspires millions and has sub-chapters all over the country.
And it was all made possible by love, determination…and some brilliant engineers.
For more information on Team Hoyt, visit www.teamhoyt.com