RANCHO SANTA FE — Team Hoyt San Diego is all about empowering disabled youth, not only in sports but in every area of their lives. While Team Hoyt San Diego readies for the 2018 Tri-City Medical Center Marathon and Half Marathon on Jan. 14, members are also preparing for their Team Hoyt San Diego fourth annual fundraiser dinner at the Lomas Santa Fe Country Club on Jan. 12.
Proceeds from the event help fund the purchase, repairs and maintenance of specialty pushable racing wheelchairs. Money collected will also help with athletic grants and races.
Roughly 200 attendees are expected to attend the event. Keynote speakers will include Mike DiDonato of Hoyt Running Chairs and Brogan Graham with a “yes you can” message. Silent auction items will be available for bidding opportunities.
Chairing the event is Sarah Sleeper of Rancho Santa Fe.
“I’m honored that Team Hoyt San Diego trusts me to run this very special fundraiser,” Sleeper said. “It’s a night of inclusion and inspiration.”
Team Hoyt San Diego was established four years ago.
Jim Pathman, a resident of Del Mar, is the chief operating officer of Team Hoyt San Diego. Pathman, 53, runs with his son, Riley, 19, who was born with cerebral palsy. The duo plans to run in the Jan. 14 Tri-City Half Marathon.
Pathman explained they are a branch of Team Hoyt, an organization that started around a father and son team living in Boston. Dick Hoyt’s son Rick was born with cerebral palsy and spastic quadriplegia. With a specialized wheelchair, the father and son started running in 1977.
It all started one day when Rick Hoyt asked his father if they could organize a charity run for an injured lacrosse player at his school. In addition to raising money, Rick Hoyt’s goal was to convey to his fellow student that life doesn’t end after you have an accident or end up in a wheelchair.
“So, they did this run together,” Pathman said. “After the run, Rick told his dad that when he’s running, he feels free and doesn’t feel like he has a handicap. His dad told him they would do more of that and they started running together.”
According to Pathman, the father-son team finished more than 1,100 races together, including 32 years of Boston Marathons and 11 Ironman distance races.
They also started a foundation.
“The foundation raised money for lots of different handicapped programs, and it was about inclusion in the community,” Pathman said. “If you are handicapped, it’s about including you in sports, including you in school activities, and including you in really every part of the community. But their focus has been sports around long-distance running races, triathlons and the like.”
Now, Dick Hoyt is 77 and his son is 54. They completed their last marathon in 2014. It was time to start thinking about retirement and a desire to leave a legacy through Team Hoyt Chapters both nationally and internationally.
Pathman said the Team Hoyt San Diego dinner takes place in conjunction with the Carlsbad marathon — the Friday before the big day.
This year, there are nine committed athletes from Team Hoyt San Diego. More Team Hoyt athletes are also expected to arrive for the marathon.
Pathman and Riley have clocked in 21 full marathons, hundreds of half marathons and 67 triathlons together. Riley’s twin brother Shane, who also has cerebral palsy, retired from running races and now does shot put. Pathman said his wife, Lisa, is a runner and helps with Team Hoyt San Diego.
Sleeper said she was drawn to chairing this event for many reasons.
“I am in awe of Dick and Rick Hoyt, the Pathman family, and all the amazing wheelchair athletes,” Sleeper said. “They prove anything is possible.”
For Pathman and his family, running has been a bonding experience.
“There’s no other better way to spend three or four hours with your children than when you’re out together on a run,” Pathman said. “It has been a gift that has allowed us to continue to stay connected as a family.”
And with the Team Hoyt chapters, it’s about educating the community on including everyone and supporting those opportunities.
“We are trying to change the culture,” Pathman said. “Not only the running community and the sporting community but also in the special needs community so that it’s changing their culture as well. We want them to see that these opportunities are available.”
To learn more about Team Hoyt, visit TeamHoyt.com. To purchase tickets to the fundraiser, log onto https://www.facebook.com/events/739847342891684/