Dad Carries Daughter with Cerebral Palsy in Triathlons

“She is my heart and I am her legs.”

That’s how Rick Van Beek describes his relationship with his 13-year old daughter, Maddy.

In 2008, Rick quit smoking 2 packs a day and started training for triathlons, with his daughter by his side. This proud Michigan dad has since completed more than 75 triathlons with Maddy, making this one of the inspirational sports stories you won’t soon forget.

Two months after Maddy was born, she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. She is unable to walk, talk or see. And yet she still smiles and she still laughs. And she loves being outdoors.

Rick competes in these triathlons to give Maddy a chance to experience life in motion.

When it’s time to swim, he carries Maddy to the water and kayaks.

inspirational sports stories
inspirational sports stories

When it’s time to bike, he attaches a cart that was built just for her.

inspirational sports stories

And when it’s time to run, he pushes Maddy in a jogging stroller.

inspirational sports stories
Team Maddy – Facebook

When asked how he gets through these physically, mentally and emotionally challenging triathlons, Rick’s answer demonstrates that he is the true epitome of a present father who chooses to find a positive perspective amidst difficult circumstances.

“It’s about putting one foot in front of the other. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to get to the finish line – it’s about you and that you got there.”

This display of unconditional love and support is one that really touches me. As someone who is blessed with good health and the ability to walk, talk and see, I am truly inspired by Rick and Maddy’s unbelievably positive attitudes toward life.

Video courtesy of

Mindful Maddy

Maddy finds joy in the simple things we often take for granted. She enjoys feeling the sun on her face, the wind in her hair and her dad’s loving embrace and expresses her feelings through smiles and laughter.

She is mindful of the present moment; she accepts it for what it is, then finds the bright side. Despite the extremely difficult hand she’s been dealt in life, she sees the good and inspires countless others to do the same.

Maddy and her dad Rick remind us all to notice and appreciate the moment.

To be grateful for our health and for our bodies.

To lift others up so they too can experience the best of what life has to offer.

And to try and do things we don’t think we can do – then surprise ourselves when we do them over and over and over.

“It’s not about how you do compared to the other guy. It’s about how you do in your own mind and your own body. That’s what it’s about for us….is trying to help people realize that.”

“United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) educates, advocates and provides support services to ensure a life without limits for people with a spectrum of disabilities.”

Donate to the United Cerebral Palsy foundation

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