THE BOSTON GLOBE
With the memorials on Boylston Street to mark the Boston Marathon bombing completed and Martin’s Park open, the Richard family tells me it’s time.
Time, they say, to field the last Team MR8 of runners who raise money for the Martin Richard Foundation. The family created the nonprofit in memory of 8-year-old Martin Richard, who was killed when pressure-cooker bombs went off near the Marathon finish line in 2013.
Since then, nearly 1,000 runners have been part of Team MR8 in Boston, Chicago, and New York City marathons, generating about $1 million annually for the foundation dedicated to sportsmanship, inclusion, kindness, and peace. With registration for the 2020 Boston Marathon opening on Sept. 9, the family felt it was the right time to tell people of their decision.
“This is bittersweet for everyone,” said Denise Richard, Martin’s mother and president of the Martin Richard Foundation’s board.
For Team MR8 — the name comes from Martin Richard’s initials and his favorite sports number — the final year’s fund-raising effort is being positioned as creating a “legacy fund” for the foundation. The Richards are not setting a financial goal.
Although the major fund-raising vehicle for the foundation will go away after 2020, Denise stressed that the foundation is not going anywhere and that “our mission isn’t changing.”
Still, the change signals a new chapter for the Dorchester family, which suffered so much from the 2013 attacks. The Richards were spectators at the Marathon finish line when the two bombs detonated six years ago. Denise lost sight in one eye; daughter Jane, then 7, lost a leg. The blast cost the father, Bill Richard, some of his hearing; Henry, the oldest child, then 11, miraculously suffered no physical harm.
Since the tragedy, the family has been in the public eye, starting the foundation in 2014 and later becoming a driving force behind the creation of Martin’s Park, a 1-acre public park and playground overlooking Fort Point Channel that opened in June.
The shift, as Bill put it, “allows us as a family to take a step back from Boylston Street and the emotional toll.”
“It’s a logical conclusion,” he added. “It’s the right time for us.”
Next year will be a transition year not only for the foundation but also for the family. By next fall, Henry will be off to college, and Jane will be starting high school.
Bill and Denise are proud of Team MR8, and the couple will very much remain involved in the foundation and in the community. The foundation has given out more than $2.3 million to projects and programs that reflect its mission. Bill said the foundation has about $5 million in its coffers, and the plan is to focus more on giving away money than on fund-raising.
“This is not a 99-year fund,” he said. “It’s a lot closer to 20 years, and that’s OK.”
Much of the refocusing revolves around reducing redundancies in the nonprofit space.
Does the Martin Richard Foundation need to hold its own service days? Perhaps it can find a partner.
How can the foundation support community groups that could really use the money?
The family, for example, would like more money to go to grass-roots organizations, especially in Dorchester, that might otherwise get overlooked by grant makers.
The one public event the foundation will continue annually is MR8K: A Run for Gratitude. held on Labor Day. The 5-mile run — organized in partnership with the Boston Bruins Foundation, New Balance, and DMSE Sports — takes place this year at Warrior Ice Arena at Boston Landing.
About 1,200 runners are expected to participate.
Last year’s run raised about $100,000, and the proceeds were donated to a McLean Hospital program that supports first responders.
Boston will never forget Martin Richard and what took place on April 15, 2013. Nor will we forget how in the aftermath his family demonstrated day after day that Boston Strong is so much more than just a slogan on a T-shirt.