200 fill Moakley Park for Martin Richard Memorial mile run

Seven and eight year olds compete in the mixed 400-meter run. Alena Kuzub photos

This was his first race. Ben Chisholm, a four-year-old blond from Wayland, was well behind the other runners, but he was focused on the track, spinning the colorful tropical wheels of his wheelchair and biting his bottom lip. Occasionally, his dad, who was running to his left, grabbed his son’s hand and pulled him forward, giving Ben a boost. 

After finishing the lap to loud cheers, Ben, who has acute flaccid myelitis, told his parents that he wanted to go again. “You caught the running bug,” said his mom Becky. “What’s a running bug?” asked Ben.

Ben was one of the many children who took part in the sixth Annual Martin Richard Memorial One Mile Invitational track and field event organized by Youth Enrichment Services in collaboration with Martin Richard Foundation and Adaptive Sports New England. The event took place at the South Boston’s Saunders Stadium in the Moakley Park across from Carson Beach last Thursday.

The event celebrates the life of Martin Richard, who was killed by a terrorist bomb at the Boston Marathon finish line in 2013. Martin participated in YES programs with his siblings.

This year almost 200 participants were on hand, elite runners, recreational runners of all ages, and wheelchair racers.

From the very first year the event was designed to be fully inclusive for everyone who wanted to compete and take part in the community, said Vicky Shen, a member of the board of directors of Martin Richard Foundation and a track and field coach with YES. 

Leo Hirota, a nine year old from Jamaica Plain who came first in the first mixed youth 400-meter heat, said he had participated in YES programs before, but this was his first time running in this fundraiser. He said he found the race quite challenging, but his goal was to win, and it felt good to achieve his goal. “I like running because it is just a very simple activity,” Leo said. “It is all about movement and practice.”

Inclusion of children who are interested in sports but happen to have vision or mobility impairment gives them a chance to have social experience of being on a team and to learn the same lessons that their able-bodied peers learn: teamwork, leadership, following a structured plan and setting goals, said Joe Walsh, president of Adaptive Sports New England, a two-timeParalympian and a former managing director of Paralympics for the United States Olympic Committee.

After the youth races were over, a common spirit of accomplishment filled the air. Everyone received a blue ribbon and Ben Chisholm’s lips were stained with Italian ice coloring just like every other kid’s.

The children’s races were followed by competitive one-mile races among high school students, parents, coaches and other adult members of the community. 

After the sun went down, and the air cooled off, the lights above the stadium came on for the finale: More than 100 parents, children, athletes, and rollers of all ages and abilities completed a community mile at their own paces, followed by an award ceremony.