With each successive event where I am able to witness Dick and Rick Hoyt interact with a crowd, I become fearful that I'll eventually reach the bottom of my personal well of emotion. I am concerned that at some point I will become immune as I watch the famed father/son marathon duo interact with yet another adoring fan.
Upon attending this weekend's Children's Hospital Boston Miles for Miracles Kick-Off Reception at the Boston Marriott Newton, however, it became clear to me that the fountain of sentiment will flow indefinitely.
I watched endlessly and fought back waves of tears as fan after fan approached father and son Hoyt, hoping to share what the two have personally come to mean to them.
One young woman rolled up in her wheelchair and shook the hands of Dick and Rick. She told the two of them that she would be competing in her first race this spring. Her face filled with pride as Dick congratulated and encouraged her. Rick did the same, as was evident by his smile and the expressiveness of his eyes.
The next fan approached, an able bodied athlete with his family in tow, and told Dick and Rick that he is grateful to them for motivating him each and every morning when he doesn't have the strength to train and hopes to see them pass him by during the course of the marathon route.
And yet another family carefully positioned their daughter's wheel chair next to Rick long enough to create a Kodak moment of their own, which will forever inspire them all during the future challenges they are sure to experience.
And on and on and on throughout the entire kick-off event.
The Miles for Miracles team raises funds each year for Children's Hospital Boston, while running April's Boston Marathon®. Each runner is required to raise a minimum of $3,250, with all proceeds going to Children's Hospital Boston.
The reception is an annual event used to kick-off their training, motivation, and fund-raising campaign.
Master of Ceremonies Jordan Rich, a popular Boston personality on WBZ1030 radio, greeted the crowd of approximately 400 runners, runners' partners, and their families and welcomed them to the annual fun-filled event. Tables were filled with a mix of athletes, the Children's Hospital patients they will be running for, and the families of each.
Rich then updated the crowd on the incredible total of over $12 million raised by the group in the 14 years since the group began.
In 2009 alone, they raised $1.4 million for Children's Hospital Boston (CHB), a total they hope to surpass this year.
The Miles for Miracles effort began in 1996 when a handful of Children's supporters entered the Boston Marathon® and raised $110,000 for the hospital. Now more than 300 runners compete in over 10 races a year, raising nearly $2 million for Children's.
The afternoon continued with a moving video presentation created by Children's Hospital Boston and featuring John Costello and Rick. Costello is the Director of the Augmentative Communication Program at CHB and has worked with Rick Hoyt since 1986.
Costello works with a team of speech language pathologists and occupational therapists at CHB to help non-speaking patients, like Rick, communicate. The team uses everything from simple picture boards to the latest sophisticated technology.
Rick uses a single switch at the right side of his head to use his current communication device, called E Z Keys. With E Z Keys, he is able to write speeches that he can store and then have spoken aloud. He uses the device to conduct motivational speeches around the globe, as he did during this event.
Says Costello, "We have the potential to help someone express their wants, thoughts, desires, emotions—and give them the chance to reveal their personalities."
The video, which shows Costello working with not only Rick, but with other CHB patients as well, brought many of the audience members to tears as they seemed to keep one eye on the video screen and the other on their physically challenged family member.
Tears flowed and hugs and kisses ensued as the presentation wore on.
The crowd was then inspired and entertained by Rick himself, who took center stage to spur on the athletes and patients alike. Through his prepared speech and use of E Z Keys, he shared his story about his long relationship with Children's Hospital, his admiration for Costello and other staff members, and his dad Dick. The two have teamed up to compete in over 1,000 athletic events, including 27 Boston Marathons.
Dick then took the mic and echoed Rick's sentiments about the CHB staff before the lights dimmed and the crowd was inspired yet again by the Hoyt's "Yes You Can" video.
As one can "only imagine," the crowd was moved to a long-standing ovation as the video came to a close.
Said Andrea Marlar, the Director of Special Events for the Children's Hospital Trust, "Rick and Dick and Hoyt received a standing ovation after their portion of the program—which was a first for our event. I knew they would be an inspiration for runners and patient families."
"We are fortunate to have them part of the Children’s family and they helped us kick-off our 2010 Boston Marathon season in style."
When the crowd settled, Dick and Rick Hoyt were then presented with the Katie Lynch Award, which is presented to individuals "who demonstrate a positive spirit, love for life, and commitment to others."
The Hoyts were choked up as they received the award with the two tiny purple running shoes at the top.
Katie Lynch was a long-time Children’s Hospital Boston patient before her passing in October 2002. Standing only 28 inches tall, Katie raised more than $27,000 for CHB in 2001 when she walked 26.2 feet on her own in an effort to not only raise funds but to share her message with the world.
Overall, it was an inspiring and motivating afternoon that left runners ready to train hard and raise a mountain of funds for Children's Hospital Boston, and left me sure that the perpetual fountain of emotions will forever flow strong.
To support the Children's Hospital Miles for Miracles team, please visit http://howtohelp.childrenshospital.org/bostonmarathon/ . To sponsor a specific runner or patient partner, search for their name on the site. To learn more about Team Hoyt, please visit the Team Hoyt website.
Todd Civin is a freelance writer for the Bleacher Report and Sports, Then and Now and does Public Relations for Team Hoyt. To contact him please email firstname.lastname@example.org.