It began with a photograph: a pair of worn Irish step dance shoes with the words “Boston Strong” written in thick black marker on the right sole. The image became the inspiration of a T-shirt designed to symbolize hope and recovery for 7-year-old dancer Jane Richard, one of the youngest victims of the Marathon bombings.
“It hit close to home,” said Maureen Hester, 24, of Westborough, who decided to make the shirts for the Dance Out for Jane fund-raiser, which took place on Saturday. “I thought about how devastated I was when I would break my ankle and couldn’t dance. I can’t imagine having dancing taken away from me.’’
Saturday evening, Hester and her sister Margaret, who took the photograph, handed out the preordered shirts during the fund-raiser at John Hancock Hall. The evening of Irish music and dancing included performances from Clifden Academy in Milton, where Jane attends dance classes.
Three days after the bombings, Hester went to Palomar Printing in Worcester with a request to have 300 shirts made — although her mother advised her to order 600.
On Monday, she called the printer asking if she could add 2,000 more shirts to her order.
“Why would I listen to my mother?” she quipped, adding that word of the order traveled quickly among Irish step dancers and teachers across the country. She even has a shipment for Calgary, Canada.
Hester said the printer waived the ink and printing fees and only charged her for the shirts, which she purchased with the assistance of her parents, whom she will reimburse before she sends the proceeds to the Richard Family Fund. The fund has more than $325,000 in donations, according to its website.
Jane, who was cheering on runners with her family at the Marathon, suffered severe leg injuries and lost her 8-year-old brother, Martin, in the bombing while her other brother was not seriously injured. Her mother, Denise, was hospitalized in serious condition and her father, Bill, was also hurt in the blasts. The fund was established to assist the Richard family with medical expenses and memorial services.
“It broke my heart,” Hester said of the family’s loss. “She’s so young.”
Hester was planning to sell the remaining 300 shirts, each about $15, at a feis, an Irish dancing competition. Hester said she and her three sisters have been dancing for nearly their entire lives.