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Marathon bombing survivors say a heartfelt thank you

Michelle is among the bombing victims to take part in the “One Fund, Many Stories” project.

Hill Holliday

Michelle is among the bombing victims to take part in the “One Fund, Many Stories” project.

Before a sweeping display of condolences, of children’s heart-shaped notes and handwritten words of grief and comfort, survivors of the Boston Marathon bombings look on in grateful wonder.

Scanning the covered walls, they reach for cards that caught their eye and hold them with care. A survivor named Karen shakes her head, struggling to take it all in. Another survivor’s father bows his head before the display and clasps his hands before his face.

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The tender scene is captured in one of the videos featured on a new webpage for One Fund Boston, the charity that has raised more than $70 million for victims of last April’s bombings. Titled “One Fund, Many Stories,” the multimedia presentation includes video portraits of survivors and a gallery of handwritten thank you notes from survivors to donors, mixed with a sampling of messages from well-wishers.

Hill Holliday, the Boston advertising agency that created the new page, invited survivors to view a selection of some 50,000 messages the One Fund received. For many survivors, it was the first time they had seen the outpouring of kindness, and they seemed nearly overcome by its scope.

“We’ve learned a lot about how good people are,” said a bombing survivor named Karen, who said in a video that she had received good wishes from people across the country. “The One Fund has been with us every day.”

In July, the fund distributed more than $61 million to survivors, yet donations have continued to come in. The fund now has more than $17 million, and donations are accelerating as this year’s Marathon approaches.

Fund officials expect to make a second round of distributions sometime this summer, and are working with a group of medical advisers to determine the best way to allocate the money. One priority will be helping victims who suffered hearing loss from the attacks, the officials said.

In the videos, pictures, and thank you messages, survivors — most of whom are identified only by their first names — spoke movingly about how much the One Fund had meant to them and how they would be forever grateful for people’s kindness.

“I can’t put into words how much all of the love, kindness, and support has meant to me,” wrote a survivor named Michelle. “Thank you doesn’t seem like enough. I will always be grateful for the kindness that I have been shown.”

This screen grab from the OneFundBoston.org website shows some of the ways bombing survivors expressed how the One Fund helped them and how grateful they are for the support. Most participants are identified by first name only.

Hill Holliday

This screen grab from the OneFundBoston.org website shows some of the ways bombing survivors expressed how the One Fund helped them and how grateful they are for the support. Most participants are identified by first name only.

In a video, Karen’s husband, Ron, recalled how he began to worry about the family’s finances when he was still in the hospital, knowing he “had a long road ahead of me.”

“I’d want people to know that their well wishes and their good thoughts and their donations were so appreciated and so much needed,” he says.

“This city has just come forward so much for us, for everyone,” his wife added. “There’s such pride.”

As the anniversary of the attacks draws near, the One Fund wanted to give survivors the chance to give thanks for the outpouring of goodwill.

“The greatest message we have received is that nothing can stop the generosity, courage, and unconditional love we have for one another,” an introduction to the display reads.

Hill Holliday, which donated its services for the production, created a 50-foot installation of the letters at its offices for the survivors to see and documented their “reactions of overwhelming gratitude.”

James Gallagher, executive vice president and chief administrative officer at John Hancock and president of One Fund Boston, said survivors have been looking forward to an opportunity to express their gratitude.

“They’ve really been eager to communicate with the public in a broad way and convey their thanks,” he said.

Employees at Hill Holliday worked for several months on the new site, Gallagher said. At times, the survivors’ stories were so emotional that filmers had to pause and collect themselves.

In videos, several survivors speak openly about their recovery, and say they have been deeply touched by people’s generosity and support.

Bill White, of Bolton, who lost a leg in the bombing, recalled his initial struggles with his prosthesis. He could not put it on quite right, he recalled, and it kept coming off.

“I just took it off and threw it in a corner,” he says. “I said: ‘I can’t do this. It’s just not going to work.’ ”

But with the encouragement of his family, White said, he learned to do “what I had to do.”

His wife, Mary Jo White, who also survived the bombings, said the One Fund’s generosity has been uplifting.

“I definitely would want to thank the people who were so generous and so thoughtful,” she said. “It really makes you strong. I just feel like we can do anything.”

Kaitlynn, who lost part of her right calf in the bombings, said the vast show of support was a great comfort and made her feel that she was not alone.

“They’re backing you up,” she said. “They’re there, and that’s an amazing, amazing feeling.”

Her boyfriend, Leo, said he hopes people do not lose sight of the compassion and selflessness that made the One Fund possible.

“I just hope people don’t forget,” he said. “I hope people don’t go back to living cynically and let all of the good that’s come out of all this go away.”

Martin Finucane of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Peter Schworm can be reached at schworm@globe.com.
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