A Father’s Devotion: Rick van Beek, 39, carries his daughter Maddy, who suffers from cerebral palsy, during a sprint triathlon on Sunday. They have ran more than 70 races as Maddy loves being outdoors.
A devoted father has completed a triathlon carrying his 13-year-old cerebral palsy-afflicted daughter across land and through water so that she could complete the gruelling event.
Rick van Beek’s feat of endurance and show of love for his daughter Madison have led many to call the man from Byron Center, Michigan the ‘father of the century’.
But it is not the first race of its kind for van Beek, who said he has participated in more than 70 events, including half-marathons, triathlons and other outdoor races, as part of ‘Team Maddy’.
He and Maddy took part in the Sanford and Sun sprint triathlon on Sunday.
Together they completed the 0.3-mile swim, 12.4-mile bike ride and 3.1-mile run, with Maddy pictured in her father’s arms as they transitioned from section to section.
‘She is my heart and I am her legs’: Devoted dad runs triathlon carrying his teenager daughter with cerebral palsy because she loves being outdoors
For the swimming portion, van Beek tugs his daughter through the water in a kayak and then pulls her behind him in a cart as he cycles. He runs the last leg pushing her in a buggy.
Van Beek, 39, told the Midland Daily News that he wants to complete the events with his daughter, who is unable to walk or talk, because she adores being outside.
Fighter: In another race, van Beek pushes Maddy in a buggy during the running portion
Ready: And for the cycling parts, he pulls her in a cart. They have competed in more than 70 races
‘She functions like a three-month-old, and one of the very few things that we know she enjoys is being outside, being in the water, feeling the breeze in her hair and in her face,’ he said.
Maddy was diagnosed with cerebral palsy two months after she was born.
‘It was one of the worst days of our lives,’ van Beek told Fox 17. ‘Everybody prays that their children are healthy and for eight years I still wished that she had been a healthy child, but if she wouldn’t have been like she is then we wouldn’t be the people that we are today.’
His outlook changed when he saw his daughter taking part in a marathon more than four years ago, and saw the pure joy on her face.
‘I watched my daughter Maddy being pushed in the Grand Rapids Marathon,’ he recounted on his blog.
‘To see her being so happy and enjoying every bump in the road was more than I could handle, my emotions took over.
Pushing forward: Van Beek nears the water to take part in the swimming section of a triathlon with Maddy
Endurance: Van Beek pulls his daughter through the water on the custom-made kayak
Joy: Van Beek took up racing after seeing Maddy in a marathon and noting how happy she looked
‘Shortly after that day I gave up smoking 2 packs a day and chewing a tin a day to be better, for Maddy. It has been a long road, with many bumps, but we are better.’
In a bid to make his daughter happy, he began training for outdoor races in 2008. Van Beek, who was out of shape and a heavy smoker, also realized it would be beneficial for him.
He persevered to get into shape for his daughter, and raised money for charities along the way.
‘[The emotion] drives me or inspires me to do the things that I do,’ he wrote on his blog last year. ‘Call it inspiration, call it motivation, call it what ever you want, I call it LOVE.
‘That will never fade…She is my heart and I am her legs, though someday she might not physically be able to be there with me, she will always be in my heart, quietly cheering me on.’
A father’s love: He said the racing also helped him get in shape and maintain a healthy lifestyle for Maddy
Happy family: Van Beek with his wife Mary and their daughter Maddy. The couple also has two other children
Many spectators have pointed out that they are touched by van Beek’s devotion.
‘That was just so inspirational to see,’ race coordinator Misty Angle told Allegan County News after watching him at the 2011 Tri Allegan triathlon.
‘That was definitely one of the highlights of the event for me and a lot of people.’
But van Beek has refused to take the credit, saying it is his daughter who inspires people.
‘I think Madison has changed more peoples’ lives than I even know about – without doing anything, just being out there. Not me, her,’ van Beek told Fox News. ‘We make a good team.’
By Daily Mail Reporter
Never Limit Your Life created by Derek Clark Motivational Speaker