Hundreds of people gathered at Fenway Park’s EMC Club last Thursday evening for the official launch of the 2016 Boston Marathon Team MR8. The core group of 66 men and women was chosen by the Martin W. Richard Foundation last December.
Their number has since swelled as other marathoners with their own bibs have stepped forward seeking to join the cause. Together, they expect to raise a half-million dollars to fund the charitable mission of the foundation, which has already launched inclusive basketball and baseball leagues in Dorchester and brought much-needed resources to existing programs in Fields Corner, Savin Hill, and Neponset.
Of course, Dorchester was very well represented at the Fenway event. Eleven of the runners on this year’s team come from the neighborhood. But it’s the Richard family’s deep roots in Dot— and the genuine connection they share with Martin’s hometown— that really shined through that night. Friends, neighbors, volunteers, classmates – whatever the connection – made for a groundswell of support for the family and its cause that has no equal in modern-day Dorchester. As Mayor Walsh said in poignant remarks, Team MR8 and what it represents is more than a charity, it’s a movement.
The foundation that Bill and Denise Richard have launched in the name of their little boy sets up a conduit not only to remember Martin, but also to keep him with us in a tangible way, every day.
“I want Martin to live a full life,” said his father, Bill, as he explained the “ultimate” mission of the foundation. "And I want him to live a full life through all of you and through all of us with all the work that we do and through all the service that we intend to do. That’s what I want. I think that we’re doing the best we can. I think tonight I continue to be in awe over the commitment and the friendship and the dedication to me and my family.”
Of course, it’s Bill and Denise and Jane and Henry Richard who continue to inspire, comfort, and lead us in their quiet, dignified, yet monumental way.
Gov. Baker, who also offered remarks at the Fenway event, compared young Martin’s message to that of another Martin, the civil rights leader whose national holiday we just observed.
“His vision, his message was profoundly powerful,” said the governor. “He’d be 86 years old today if he were still alive. But there’s simply no question that his message and what he stood for is very much with us.”
The message that the two Martin’s share – the pursuit of peace and of building what King called “the beloved community” – represents “the very best of what people can be all about. That’s what MR8 is all about,” said the governor. “That’s what this Martin’s message is all about. There’s no doubt in my mind that Martin will live a full life, because of the power of his message and the power that comes when all of you communicate that message to people that you know.”