“She is my heart and I am her legs,” says one devoted father Rick van Beek, from Byron Center, MI. Participating in more than 70 outdoor events including, but certainly not limited to, triathlons and half-marathons; ‘Team Maddy’ pushes through. Madison, or ‘Maddy’ as her family calls her, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at just 2 months of age. Cerebral palsy is a disorder used to describe a variety of injuries or abnormalities in the brain effecting system functions such as hearing, thinking, movement, learning and seeing. Issues with cerebral palsy typically occur while the child is still in the womb; however, these abnormalities or injuries to the brain can happen within the child’s first two years.
“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,” Breek says.
In Team Maddy’s most recent event, the Sanford and Sun spirit triathlon, Maddy and her dad completed a 0.3 mile swim, 12.4 mile bike ride and 3.1 mile run. All the time Maddy being carried section to section safely in her father’s arms. Rick van Beek, 39, told the Midland Daily News that he wants to complete all the events with Maddy, who is not able to walk or talk, because Madison loves to be outdoors. When father and daughter participate in a triathlon, van Beek pulls Maddy through the water behind him in a specially crafted kayak, like a tug boat for the swimming potion of the event, pulls her behind him in a cart during the bicycle section and during the last leg of running, he pushes Maddy in her buggy. Right after the Grand Rapids marathon more than four years ago, van Beek said “To see her being so happy and enjoying every bump in the road was more than I could handle, my emotions took over.”
Last year on Rick van Beek’s blog he said “[The emotion] drives me or inspires me to do the things that I do. Call it inspiration, call it motivation, call it whatever you want, I call it LOVE.” Rick van Beek has pushed through with determination and dedication to get in shape for his daughter, Maddy, while raising funds for charity along his journey.
Rick continues on his blog saying “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.”
There have been so many event spectators that have exclaimed how van Beek’s devotion to his daughter has touched them. After watching Team Maddy at the 2011 Tri Allegan triathlon, race coordinator, Misty Angle, said “That was just so inspiring to see, that was definitely one of the highlights of the event for me and a lot of people.”
Of course, however, “father of the century,” as many have begun to call Rick van Beek, says that the credit is not his; he says that it is all Maddy who is the inspiration for people.
“I think Madison has changed more peoples’ lives than even I know about; without doing anything, just being out there. Not me, her. We make a good team.” van Beek proclaimed to Fox news