I am well aware that we just celebrated Father’s Day 2006 two weeks ago, complete with gifts that no doubt included a wide array of carefully chosen, colorful new ties, and an assortment of cool new outdoor grills as tokens of our appreciation for the dads in our kid’s lives (we could be a bit more creative with our gifts people, but that’s for another blog, another day).

The good news is that I have a belated gift to offer up to these hard-working men, one that recognizes and honors terrific dads of children with special needs everywhere- one that will hopefully inspire them to be all they can be. And I simply must ramble on about it.

If you don’t know about Team Hoyt, the amazing father and son whose remarkable tight bond has been fueled by years of running marathons and completing triathlons together, I’m going to change that fact. In recent years, this father and son have been honored in the press all over the world, including in Sports Illustated. But more importantly, the Hoyt duo continues to leave lasting imprints on people’s minds and hearts, by modeling the power of a parent’s unconditional love, a parental commitment that focuses on ability and possibility, not the limitations of a disability.

Dick and Rick Hoyt call Massachusetts home, but the world has become their athletic turf. The story of these two amazing athletes is made even more remarkable by the fact that Rick Hoyt has cerebral palsy and is a wheelchair user. But that hardly defines his value to the world. Rick is a graduate of Boston University, where he is also employed. He’s a spunky and determined man, much like his dedicated father, who gives new meaning to parent involvement and to being a dad. Rick Hoyt is a chip off the old genetic block… and that stellar pedigree has proved golden.

For more than 25 years Rick’s father, Dick, a retired a lieutenant colonel in the air nation guard,has served as Rick’s feet and arms. Together, they have completed 24 Boston Marathons, and countless triathlons. Today, they are known as Team Hoyt, with a lofty mission to integrate the physically challenged into everyday life. Dick and Rick Hoyt have lived this reality; they know it’s possible. They have set a new bar for the rest of us. None of the old stereotypical excuses offered here. For more about their efforts, check out: www.teamhoyt.com.

Because of my son, Eric, who had cerebral palsy and passed away in 2003 at age 12, I believe in living, breathing heroes. Team Hoyt fits that bill. You can learn more about their story and become inspired in your own life. It’s impossible not to be lifted up at least for a little while by the Hoyt’s rock-solid commitment to athletic pursuits and to life success, no matter how tough your day has been. Focus on what is possible in your child’s life, and do everything you can to make it happen.

Another clear message you can’t overlook when talking about Team Hoyt is this: Dads matter to their kids, big time. Just ask Rick Hoyt. His dad (and mom) believed in his value right from birth, and they never looked back. (For a similar story of the power of parental love, check out more of my life with my son Eric at JudyWinter.com or in my book Breakthough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations).

I hope you have a life changing week- one that helps builds your child’s self esteem in ways that only a dad can! (Hint: Spend some fun one-on-one time together, and yes, dads, this can include the pursuit of sports). Just remember Dick and Rick Hoyt…