On April 21, at the 118th Boston Marathon, a group of over 100 runners will take to the streets of the city under the collective name of Team MR8 to run in memory of Martin Richard, the youngest person killed in last year’s bombings.
Enjoying a family day out for Marathon Monday last year, the Richard family stood at Boylston Street cheering on the runners as they made their way across the finish line on April 15, 2013. Then two bombs exploded.
Since then, they have spent the last twelve months trying to reconstruct their lives and recover physically, mentally and emotionally from the events that unfolded on that fateful day.
Dad, Bill, sustained busted eardrums; Mom, Denise lost her sight in one eye. Oldest son Henry was hospitalized for cuts and bruises while the youngest, Jane, lost her leg.
Eight-year-old Martin lost his life.
His was one of three lives taken that day. Krystle Campbell, 29, and Lu Lingzi, 23, were also killed.
Along with the excruciating physical injuries and unimaginable loss, the Richard family has had to learn to live in a new reality in which their every move since the bombings has been watched. Despite the curiosity surrounding the family, they have retained as much privacy as was possible over the past year.
Very little was known about their progress until last Sunday, when the Boston Globe published a story about this once ordinary family from the Irish-American neighborhood of Dorchester.
Opening up their home and their hearts, the Richards shared their inspiring journey over the last twelve months, from their physical recovery to their desire to create new memories for their family, as well as sharing an insight into their emotional wounds, which are harder to heal.
Throughout it all, the hardest struggle has been coming to terms with the loss of Martin.
Speaking with the Globe, the Richards recalled the day in July when Jane was finally released from Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. The family drove back to their Dorchester home haunted by the extra space in the backseat of their family car where Martin once sat.
Some months later, the Richards found a means in which to preserve the memory of their beloved son and brother. The Martin Richard Charitable Foundation (also known as Team MR8) was officially launched.
The mission of the foundation is to honor Martin's now iconic message of ‘No more hurting people – peace’ by investing in education, athletics and community.
"We established The Martin W. Richard Charitable Foundation to honor our son Martin’s message of peace, a message that went global in the days after he was tragically taken from us while we were all cheering on runners at last year’s Boston Marathon,” said Martin’s father Bill Richard in a statement at the time
“While the pain of that day will forever be with us, our hope is that this special event becomes a source of strength for our family and a means to make a difference in the world.”
One of their first initiatives was to set up a running team for this year's marathon. An open call for applications was issued in early January, and all members of this special team were selected by the family.
Among this group of novice to seasoned runners is Michael McCarthy, a family friend from the same neighborhood of Dorchester.
Reflecting on his reasons for applying to take part in the team, McCarthy spoke warmly of the shared memories both families have and recalled how Martin would play hockey or go on bike rides with his own son: “The Richard family mean a lot to me and my family......We have known them for years.”
Despite a grueling 12-hour work day and the long Massachusetts winter, McCarthy has been training every day, running at least 10-12 miles to train for the 26-mile marathon course. Running is not new for McCarthy, but he admits, "I have run 5ks…10ks but never a marathon…. It is intense training."
When it was formed, the Richards hoped the members of Team MR8 could raise thousands of dollars, which they then would be used to ‘pay it forward.’
Each runner committed to raising at least $7,500 for the organization.
As part of his efforts Mike and his wife, Sheila, organized a fun Irish-themed night to help meet his target. This event took place in February and on that night alone they raised $33,000 for Martin's Foundation.
Speaking about the support he has received from the community, Mike said, “It’s been absolutely incredible, a tremendous outpouring of support.”
His astounding fund-raising efforts have been equally matched by his running teammates. Collectively Team MR8 has raised nearly $1 million to date. “It is phenomenal, absolutely incredible,” said Mike of the donations received so far.
Their impressive efforts will help fund programs that make difference in the lives of others while creating a legacy for young Martin.
For more information on Team MR8 or to donate please visit TeamMR8.org.