One Michigan father is doing everything he can for a daughter that can't do the things she loves for herself - and along the way, the two of them are inspiring others to do things they never thought possible before.
Thirteen-year-old Madison suffers from cerebral palsy and her family says she loves to be outdoors. That's where her father, 39-year-old Rick van Beek, comes in. The pair completed the Sanford and Sun sprint triathlon on Sunday, west of Midland.
To accomplish his daughter's desire, her dad carries her from section to section of the races, pulls her in a kayak during the swim portions, pulls her in a cart as he bikes 12.4 miles and runs 3.1 miles while pushing her in a wheeled child carrier.
Through all this, the father and daughter dubbed "Team Maddy" have completed more than 70 races, including half-marathons and triathlons.
Cerebral palsy is a broad term used to describe a group of non-progressive,non-contagious motor conditions that cause physical disability in human development, mainly in the various areas of body movement.
Van Beek told The Midland Daily News that his daughter functions like a 3-month-old, but loves being outside, in the water and feeling the wind in her hair and face.
While van Beek, who hails from Byron Center, MI, acknowledges that the day he and his wife found out their daughter had cerebral palsy was the worst day of their lives, he said his outlook on life changed when he saw pure joy on her face while taking part in a Grand Rapids marathon about four years ago.
"I watched my daughter Maddy being pushed in the Grand Rapids Marathon," he stated 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."
Van Beek said he quit smoking two packs a day and using chew, and took up running. Besides getting in shape, he and Maddy raise money for charities with their participation in events.
"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," van Beek wrote on his blog.
"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."
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