Perimeter Profile: Steve King & Family

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

The story of a dedicated father and the founding of myTeam TRIUMPH – Southern Arizona

Steve King & son, Lucas with Dick & Rick Hoyt

Now in it’s second year of involvement, myTeam TRIUMPH – Southern Arizona is a beneficiary of both El Tour Adventure Run/Walk and El Tour, which means, if you choose, you can raise money for myTeam Triumph – Southern Arizona at either or both events.

“Running for Lucas” — the compelling story of myTeam TRIUMPH – Southern Arizona —– was submitted by Romi Carrell Wittman, a freelance writer and proud aunt of Lucas and Emerson King.

My feet hurt, with hot shooting pains running up through the center, searing along the ridges of my bones. My lungs burn and my back aches, just more reminders that running does not come naturally to me. At all. But I keep going because I have a reason to run. And his name is Lucas.

Lucas King is my five-year old nephew. Lucas had a rough start in life. He had a traumatic birth that caused oxygen deprivation and, as a result, he has cerebral palsy. He is non-verbal, but otherwise is a bright, happy kid in every way. My hope is that, one day, after I’ve gotten myself into decent running shape, Lucas will be my Captain and I will be Lucas’ Angel.

myTeam TRIUMPH is an athletic ride-along program where kids, teens and adults with disabilities are paired with ‘Angels,’ who then together compete in endurance events like 5ks and other road races. The disabled person is the team Captain, and the runner is the Angel.

The local chapter of myTeam TRIUMPH was founded last year by Steve and Denise King, Lucas’ parents. “I saw the April 2011 Sports Illustrated article about the Hoyts in which myTeam TRIUMPH was mentioned and that’s what inspired me,” King says.

The Hoyts are a legendary father-son team. Rick Hoyt was born in 1962 and, due to oxygen deprivation to his brain at birth, he was diagnosed a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy. His parents, Dick and Judy Hoyt, were advised to institutionalize their son because there was no chance of recovery and little hope for Rick to lead a normal life. This began the parent’s journey to include Rick in the community, education, sports and the workplace.

When Rick was 15, he told his father that he wanted to participate in a five-mile benefit run for a classmate that had been paralyzed in an accident. Though he’d never competed in running events, Dick Hoyt agreed to push Rick in the race in his wheelchair. They finished second to last in the race, but Rick told his father that when he was running, it felt like his disability disappeared. And so Team Hoyt was born. They’ve since competed in hundreds of events together, including the Boston Marathon thirty times as well as six Ironman triathlons.  The Hoyts’ example inspired other parents with children with disabilities to form myTeam Triumph.

After reading the article about the Hoyts, King did a little research. He discovered that there were several chapters of myTeam TRIUMPH across the nation, but not in Southern Arizona. He filed the necessary paperwork to get myTeam TRIUMPH established as a non-profit, then set to work to find local running events in which MyTeam Triumph Southern Arizona could partner.

King reached out to Richard DeBarnardis, organizer of the annual El Tour de Tucson. DeBarnardis arranged for myTeam TRIUMPH to participate in the September 2011 El Tour 5k, marking myTeam TRIUMPH’s first event. The fledging group had to borrow the specialized wheelchairs needed for the race from the national myTeam TRIUMPH organization because it had not had a chance to fundraise and purchase their own.

“The wheelchairs are like baby joggers on steroids and amazingly expensive with all the ADA requirements,” King laughs.

Due to the extra cushioning and specialized frames needed for the chairs, each one costs upwards of $1,000. Despite the fact that the organization is so new, myTeam TRIUMPH Southern Arizona has since managed to raise enough funds to purchase several chairs. King hopes to purchase more, including larger chairs to accommodate adults, bicycling equipment and boats for triathlons.

Last October, Steve and Denise King had the opportunity to meet Dick Hoyt, who travels the country as a motivational speaker. Hoyt invited the couple and their two children to participate in the Holland 5K in the Hoyt’s hometown of Holland, Massachusetts. The event was held this past May, and Steve and Lucas raced along with Dick and Rick Hoyt as well as some 40 other pairs of Captains and Angels.

King says the event was inspiring. “Running alongside the legends of our sport…it was surreal. It was awesome running and thinking…that’s freaking Dick and Rick Hoyt,” King says.

After the race, the Captains and Angels convened at The Finish Line, a café owned and operated by Dick Hoyt. Hoyt has already invited the King family back to race again next year.

“We want to get to the Finish Line again!” Steve says. “Being that Lucas is tube feed, ice cream is one of the few things that my son can eat orally and just so happens that ice cream is a prominent item on the Hoyt’s menu.”

MyTeam TRIUMPH is again participating in the El Tour 5K, which takes place September 15 at St. Gregory Preparatory School.  King hopes to partner with other organizations on more races, perhaps longer ones like a 10k, marathons, and triathlons.


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