Thursday, June 14, 2007

Team Hoyt

Father and son Dick and Rick Hoyt compete together in marathons and triathlons. They climb mountains together, too, and once trekked 3,735 miles across America.

Rick, however, can’t walk, or even talk.

When he was born (1962), the umbilical cord wrapped around his head and stopped the oxygen from flowing to his brain. The prognosis: Rick would never develop. He would be like the proverbial “vegetable.” The doctors advised the Hoyts to institutionalize their son.

They refused, determining to raise their son as “normally” as possible.

Turns out Rick wasn’t a vegetable, his cognitive powers were intact. The Hoyts hired a team of Tufts University computer scientists to build a $5,000 special PC that Rick could use to pick out letters and spell words with a very slight head movement. His first “words” were “Go Bruins” – the Boston Bruins were in the Stanley Cup finals. The family realized Rick had been following hockey with the whole family – he just couldn’t communicate it – till now.

In 1975, Rick was accepted into public school. Two years later, he expressed his interest in participating in a five-mile run in support of a local lacrosse player who had been paralyzed in an accident. Dad Dick wasn’t an athlete, but agreed to push Rick in his wheelchair. That night Rick said he didn’t feel handicapped when he was competing.

That was just the beginning for “Team Hoyt.” In 1981, the father-son pair entered the Boston Marathon. Amazingly, they finished in the top 25%. Early on, few felt comfortable enough to speak to Rick, but that changed.

After four successful years in marathoning, the Hoyts felt it was time to take on a new challenge: triathlon. Dick said he sank like a stone in the water, at first, and hadn’t been on a bike since he was six. But he had more than enough heart for this daunting challenge, even to the point of training five hours a day, five days a week, even while working.

Dick’s Father’s Day gift was a new bike that carried Rick in front; (in the swim portion, incredibly, he pulled Rick in a boat).

Needless to say, Team Hoyt provided immeasurable inspiration to fellow competitors.

Not everything has been easy. Rick cannot fully control his tongue while eating in restaurants. It offends some patrons, who change tables, and this bothers Dick. But by and large, Team Hoyt has made great strides in developing understanding for the needs of less-abled.

Rick graduated from Boston U. (1993) with a degree in special education. He works in the University’s computer labs developing machines that can be controlled by eye movement alone.

Speaking across the nation, the Hoyts share their message of grit, triumph, and simply that everyone should be included. See for more.

Now they call me Infidel... the title of a 2006 book by Nonie Darwish. Is Islam the "peaceful religion", as Pres. Geo. Bush called it in the aftermath of 9/11? Darwish, a former Muslim, who was raised in Egypt, the daughter of a "shahid" -- a jihadist martyr -- says no.

Her father was a high-ranking, and highly respected Egyptian military officer who was assassinated by a package bomb. It was July 11, 1956. Nonie was eight. Her life changed in that instant. She lost the love and protection of the man who mattered most to her: her father. That he was lionized as a “shahid,” i.e. a martyr for jihad, was cold comfort.

Nonie spent the rest of her life trying to understand the hatred that motivates the generations-old conflict in the Middle East. As the daughter of a “shahid,” Nonie and her family enjoyed some privileges. Educated by British Catholic nuns in Cairo, and on graduation working as a journalist’s translator, she decided that hatred came from Islam itself, not the peaceful and uplifting Islam she loved, but the Islam that preached hatred and war against Jews and Christians, and marginalized women via cultural, legal, and marital traditions.

In the aftermath of 9/11 she was mortified at the celebrations in the Arabic world, and the deafening silence by so-called “moderate Muslims” who should have spoken out against the atrocity.

In response, she wrote Now They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel, and the War on Terror (2006). She went another step and founded With great courage, Nonie speaks around the world and calls Muslims to account for their attitudes and actions. Herself a Christian, and a Republican and a lover of all things American as only someone who emigrated from a closed, often oppressive society at thirty could be, she often meets with hostility and slander from fellow Arabs, but remains undeterred. Her aim is simple: peace for all the world’s peoples, whatever their religious faith.

Quote: “Reject hate, embrace love. Bring out the best in Islam by showing your compassion, gratitude and forgiveness. Make the holy land truly holy by giving Israel and the Jewish people the respect they deserve in their tiny little country. This is not a crisis over land. It is a crisis of the soul; a crisis in our faith, judgement and self confidence. Israel should not be regarded as an enemy, but as a blessing to our neighborhood. We need not fear peace, but embrace it.”