Being a father means something different to every family. Some fathers may excel in teaching their son how to throw a baseball. Some fathers may provide a shoulder to cry on. Some fathers may take on a role of disciplinarian. Some fathers help pick out the perfect prom dress.
When a child is born, a man’s life eternally changes, as does his role in life. When a child is born with a developmental disability, fatherhood takes on a completely different form. Aspire of WNY would like to pay homage to all of the fathers in Buffalo and Western New York who commit their lives to the unconditional love of their children, but extend special appreciation for those who unconditionally love their developmentally disabled children.
Fathers of children with developmental disabilities face many of the same issues as any other Dad, but the emotional strength they hold in coping and working each and every day to make their child live a happy life cannot be understated. Despite the tribulations that disabilities cause for their children, their wives, and themselves, they stand strong and provide unconditional love.
In 2014, America was given a closeup look at this unconditional love and devotion, when Dick and Rick Hoyt were featured by several major media outlets.
Rick was born a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy. His father was told by doctors that his son was hopeless, unable to walk or talk. The words no father wants to hear. Despite the emotional burden, Dick fought to include his son in all different kinds of activities. Rick would eventually be outfitted with a communication device which showed he was intelligent, and allowed him to attend public school.
At the age of 15, a local lacrosse player was paralyzed and Rick asked his Dad if he would push him in the 5-mile fund-raising road race.
It was then when Dick heard the words every father of a quadriplegic child wants to hear.
“When I’m running I don’t feel handicapped.”
The Hoyts would go on to run, bike, swim together, father pushing son, in over 1,000 road races, marathons, and triathlons, gaining a following all over the world for their inspiring relationship.
The 2014 Boston Marathon marked their 32nd and final Boston Marathon race as a duo. Today Dick is 75 and Rick is 54, and after almost 40 years, over 1100 endurance events, their love remains, and continues to inspire others. Though Dick’s age has prevented him from running every race, Team Hoyt still runs today.
Despite being deemed “hopeless” at birth, Rick was able to graduate from Boston University in 1993 with a degree in Special Education, and later work at Boston College in a computer lab, helping to develop systems to aid in communication and other tasks for people with disabilities.
Had it not been for the unconditional love that Dick and his wife provided for their son, Rick couldn’t have experienced the joy and success he has in life.
This is a truly remarkable tale of what it means to be the father of a developmentally disabled child. For the fathers in Western New York who love their sons and daughters unconditionally, despite what they are forced to endure in life, everyone at Aspire of WNY salutes YOU!
Happy Father’s Day Gentlemen!