Wedding Ceremony Script Has Special Meaning
A special wedding ceremony script held Jan. 20 at the Oxford Public Library was the latest event to be inspired by Rick Hoyt of Boston, a nonspeaking quadriplegic. Mr. Hoyt, in a wheelchair, and his father, Dick Hoyt of Holland, have gained national fame as “Team Hoyt,” participating in marathons, triathlons and other competitions across the country
Rick’s mother, Judy A. Hoyt of Union, Conn., was also inspired by her son to work for the disabled. She helped draft Massachusetts’ groundbreaking special education law, known as Chapter 766, and founded Kamp for Kids in 1976 in Westfield, where children with and without disabilities enjoy summer fun together.
A dozen years ago, Ms. Hoyt founded the Perfect Team, a group of mentally challenged individuals of all ages, which meets every Thursday evening, alternating between the Charles Larned Memorial Free Public Library in Oxford and the Charlton Manor Rest Home in Charlton. Some team members are autistic, others have Down syndrome or delayed development. All enjoy team membership, Ms. Hoyt said.
Linda M. Iandoli, administrator of the Charlton Manor Rest Home, said her residents look forward to their Thursday visits from the Perfect Team. “They do crafts, play trivia games, do puzzles or play musical chairs. They interact well with the residents. Everyone benefits,” she said.
Ms. Hoyt credited her son, Rick, with inspiring her to work with the disabled, noting, “When I divorced 11 years ago, I moved to Oxford. My whole life is dedicated to persons with disabilities, thanks to my son Rick, who has cerebral palsy. He’s way cool. He has a brilliant IQ. He was the first nonspeaking quadriplegic to graduate from B.U. (Boston University),” Ms. Hoyt said, obviously a proud mom.
Though Ms. Hoyt now lives in Connecticut, she travels to Oxford or Charlton every week to meet with the Perfect Team.
The team has put on plays, including “Snow White” and “Superman,” for which Ms. Hoyt writes the wedding ceremony script. “Some of the team members can read, some do not. I keep parts simple. They all like to sing, so we always have musicals. Last week’s wedding was the best we’ve ever done,” Ms. Hoyt said.
Wedding ceremony script preparations took three months, as team members and their families and friends worked on flowers, decorations, scenery and parts. The actual ceremony was a renewal of vows by Patricia A. and Steven C. Tonken, parents of team member Michelle M. Tonken, 22, of Webster. Mr. Tonken is a parent educator for Catholic Charities in Southbridge.
Mrs. Tonken said she and her husband really hammed it up, to the joy of the team members and their 41 guests gathered at the library for the event. “I wore the same dress I had worn at our wedding. We had rings, a toast, a wedding cake we fed to each other – I really smooshed it into Steve’s face – and the first dance. Everything. It was wonderful,” Mrs. Tonken said.
Michelle Tonken served as both ring-bearer and flower girl, with Ms. Hoyt acting as mother of the bride and David Dube of Auburn playing father of the bride. Jamie Clouthier of Oxford performed the ceremony as justice of the peace, Jayme Booker of Union rolled out a white carpet for the bride, and Ryan Kingsbury of Oxford served as best man. Amie Siegmund of Dudley was maid of honor, Karen Kent of Oxford was bridesmaid, and Adam Davis of Charlton was the usher. Kevin Stone of Oxford provided music as disk jockey.
“The only team member missing was Justin Booker, who was there in spirit, but was unable to attend,” Ms. Hoyt said.
Mrs. Tonken said the most touching part of the ceremony was when each team member sang a song to the bride and groom. “These kids might be severely disabled, but music brings out the best in them. We all cried,” Mrs. Tonken said, adding, “It was a very fun night, a heart-warming event.”