Martin Richard’s gap-tooth smile became tragically familiar after the Boston Marathon bombings last year, an image that reflected the innocent joy of an 8-year-old Dorchester boy who was killed as he watched the race with his family.
Eight months later, the Richards are working to perpetuate his memory and his precocious sense of fairness through a charitable foundation that will invest in education, athletics, and community.
“This foundation will be a legacy for Martin, allowing us to ‘pay it forward’ and make a difference in ways that would make him proud, but also be a source of healing and purpose for us,” the Richard family said in a statement issued Monday.
The foundation’s first objective is to recruit a team of runners for the Boston Marathon April 21. Their mission: “To honor Martin’s message of ‘No more hurting people – peace.’ ”
After the bombings, a widely circulated photo of Martin holding a sign with those hand-lettered words became an iconic symbol of the tragedy.
Runners who wish to join the team must commit to raising $7,500 for the foundation and apply by Jan. 17.
Applications, which will be accepted based on a commitment to the foundation’s goals, are available on a website at www.TeamMR8.org.
Larry Marchese, a spokesman for the Richard family, said the team has 15 to 20 race numbers available to distribute. However, runners who qualify for the Marathon based on race times and other standard criteria can join the team if they commit to raising $2,000, Marchese said.
“This first Marathon team, more than any that follow, will help the Richard family give life to a foundation that honors their son Martin’s memory and makes the world a better place,” Marchese said.
In his small way, Marchese said, Martin worked toward that goal.
“When there was a disagreement on the playground, Martin was the little boy who would step in and work to resolve it, to help kids find their common ground,” Marchese added.
Despite struggles to get through the day at times, the family is persevering and recovering from injuries to Martin’s mother and father, Denise and Bill, and his sister, Jane, who is walking with a new prosthesis on her left leg, Marchese said. Another brother, Henry, was not injured at the Marathon.
Three people were killed, and more than 260 were injured in the bombings. An MIT police officer died three days later after allegedly being shot by the suspected bombers.
“Our lives have changed forever, but many things stay the same,” the family wrote in the statement. “We miss Martin deeply, more than any words on paper could possibly describe. It has become obvious that we need to fill the emptiness we continue to feel. Martin will forever be a part of us, but we also feel an obligation to make sure the world remembers him and his message.”
The Richards said they continue to receive letters and gifts from around the globe.
“We open and read everything,” the family said. “The letters we receive are an inspiration to us. We hope to reply to every single letter in time and ask that you forgive that it takes us so much time to do so.”