It's been three years since southeast Valley Eagle Scout Spencer Zimmerman, then 13, took his friend Dayton Hayward, also 13, on the ride of his life. But this inspiring story of selflessness is worth retelling, especially during the holiday season.
Spencer and some friends from his church had signed up to participate in a triathlon, and he wanted Dayton to participate too. But Dayton has cerebral palsy and a seizure disorder and can't speak or walk. Yet to Spencer and his other friends, Dayton is just one of the guys.
“I thought it would be really cool to do a triathlon with Dayton,” Spencer said. “He should have the opportunity to do and enjoy what everybody else does.”
So Spencer talked to his parents and Dayton’s parents about doing the triathlon with Dayton. Everyone thought it was a great idea, so they asked Dayton if he wanted to do it.
“Spencer went to Dayton and asked him, and Dayton just blinked really definitely like he was really excited about doing a triathlon with him,” said Dayton’s father, John Hayward.
So Spencer trained, and he and Dayton did the triathlon together. For the swim, Spencer pulled Dayton behind him in a small, inflated boat. On the bike, he attached a cart for Dayton to sit in, and on the run, he pushed Dayton in a jogging stroller. The race was hard, but Spencer says he and Dayton “loved every second of it,” and he was grateful to have Dayton with him.
“Throughout the swim, the bike, and the run, I knew that Dayton was five feet from me the whole time,” Spencer says. “It was awesome to know that one of my really good friends could be with me.”
Spencer says he and Dayton grew closer together during the race and that he felt spiritually strengthened.
“Near the finish line was very spiritual for me and Dayton, because I felt that I was out of energy, but then Dayton started smiling. I started to speed up, and I had the energy to sprint the last few hundred yards into the finish line. I felt that the Spirit was there helping Dayton and me to finish that race.”
They ended up finishing in an hour and 28 minutes and won first place in the team category. But Spencer doesn’t want any credit or glory for what he did.
“The triathlon was such a neat experience, because it was hard for Spencer, and yet he made it look easy,” says Dayton’s mom, Sherrine Hayward. “And he always has given the glory to the team. He’s been very humble, and he doesn’t want the spotlight. He wants Dayton to look like the hero, and he’s just Dayton’s legs.”