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Top sponsor John Hancock sticks by Marathon

No private company in Boston was more entwined with the Boston Marathon, had more employees near the finish line, or more at stake financially than John Hancock.

The longtime chief sponsor of the Marathon, Hancock had hundreds of employees, volunteers, guests, and runners involved in the race — two of whom were injured in the bomb blasts.

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Those two, both employees of the insurance and financial services company, have undergone at least two surgeries each, a senior executive said, and are expected to recover fully. “We are very grateful and fortunate,’’ said James Gallagher, executive vice president and chief administrative officer at Hancock.

With about 200 employees and volunteers working the race, as well as 150 runners, Hancock had a massive presence in Copley Square on Monday. The company also had numerous clients, executives, and guests in the VIP stands across the street from where the bombings took place.

Gallagher was close by when the bombs exploded. He had been moving between the grandstands and the Fairmont Copley Plaza hotel, where Hancock each year rents several offices and conference rooms for its Marathon operations. After the explosions, he and the staff moved into emergency mode.

“Our immediate focus afterward was in trying to secure all of our employees, guests, volunteers. Taking account of everyone, finding out if anyone was injured. That was first and foremost,’’ Gallagher said. When police started clearing the area, he and staff urged volunteers and employees to go home or take shelter at the hotel.

Then Gallagher turned his attention to the rest of Hancock’s employees, more than 2,000 of whom work in Back Bay office buildings and at the company’s Seaport headquarters. Those who were at work Monday were told to stay in their offices until later in the afternoon, when authorities recommended that people go home.

On Tuesday, when much of Copley Square was taped off as a crime scene, employees were allowed to work from home or use office space in Hancock’s Congress Street building. Hancock is a unit of Toronto-based Manulife Financial Corp.

The next step, Gallagher said, was reaching out to city and state officials to help. “We’re concerned about our employees, we’re concerned about our customers, and then of course our community,’’ Gallagher said.

The result was the One Fund Boston, a new foundation announced by Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Governor Deval Patrick to help the victims of the bomb attack. Hancock made a $1 million contribution to the fund and was joined by a number of other corporate contributors in town. As of Wednesday evening, the tally was as much as $10 million, according to Jack Connors, a retired Boston advertising executive and a member of the One Fund board.

John Ivey, a sports marketing specialist with Altus Marketing & Management in Boston, and a former director of Hancock’s sponsorship group, said it was encouraging to see Hancock step up with a large donation. “That’s a meaningful commitment and reflective of the role Hancock has played in keeping the Marathon alive and thriving over the last 25 years,” he said.

Hancock has been lead sponsor of the Boston Marathon since 1986, resurrecting the race as a major competition that pays significant prize money and attracts world-class runners. As part of the multimillion-dollar event, Hancock trains its runners and hosts a week of activities, including a sports and fitness exposition and school events.

Asked whether Hancock was thinking yet about next year, Gallagher said he was already hearing people talk about the future.

“Already today — and this speaks so well of our community — people are turning their attention to the time ahead, both in terms of looking after the victims and their families, and also Boston Marathon 2014.”

No doubt there will be security along the route, especially near the tight quarters along the finish line, Gallagher said. “But those security changes will give everyone the confidence to make it bigger and better.”

Beth Healy can be reached at bhealy@globe.com.
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