Globe Magazine

Denise Richard on paying kindness forward

Peace, unity, and civic engagement remain the core mission of the Martin Richard Foundation on the fifth anniversary of the Marathon bombings.

 Volunteers pitch in at the Martin Richard Foundation’s service day last year.
Volunteers pitch in at the Martin Richard Foundation’s service day last year.Mike Ritter (Ritterbin Photography)

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” — Anne Frank

Humankind continues to be challenged in many ways, yet predictably, we continue to respond with kindness, compassion, and benevolence. During the past year, we have endured multiple natural disasters including hurricanes, floods, fires, and earthquakes across our country and our world. We watch with heavy hearts as violence, riots, acts of terrorism, brutality, and harassment are shown on the news. Civil discord seems to brew in too many stories and reports.

Yet, our society sees the good in others, answers the call, and makes the needs of others our priority. The bravery and action of first responders, up-standers, and rescue workers prevails. The American people respond with donations of money, clothing, supplies, and shelter when called upon. Just as important, people donate time, effort, and energy to communities in order to bring a semblance of peace and stability to many lives. Individuals work for a cause greater than self through civil endeavors, protecting the rights of others as well as their own. Our young people recognize the obligation and responsibility of community engagement and holding elected officials accountable. They work with a sense of urgency and passion to make their voices heard and are willing to use their voices and actions to be advocates and change makers.

Let us not forget the willingness of society to step up, unafraid to get involved and help others. Five years ago, our own City of Boston was the recipient of the world’s love, compassion, and generosity when two bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon in 2013, killing my son, Martin, along with Lingzi Lu and Krystle Campbell and injuring our family as well as hundreds of others. In turn, we, the families of the deceased and injured, were treated with the utmost care and empathy. Our families were embraced by the spirit of goodness and the determination of a community willing to help. The resiliency, selflessness, and strength of this city made us look our best while we were at our worst.


Perhaps we rely on the notion that we need life altering situations to make kindness matter. Kindness need not be displayed in random acts but with intent and purpose. Kindness is a vital part of the effort to foster a peaceful and just region, nation, and global community. Kindness supports human dignity and should be shared freely — neighbor to neighbor, block by block, until everyone is recognized as equal. Kindness is not boastful.


Inspired by our family’s regular and enthusiastic involvement in civic life in Dorchester, the Martin Richard Foundation was founded in 2014. When a photo of Martin holding a handmade poster that read “No more hurting people. Peace” was shared over the Internet, his message created a feeling of unity, kindness, and peace — values that have become the pillars of his Foundation’s mission.

A mother and son plant flowers in Peabody Square in Dorchester as part of the One Boston Day event in 2016.
A mother and son plant flowers in Peabody Square in Dorchester as part of the One Boston Day event in 2016.Jonathan Wiggs / Globe Staff/ File

The Martin Richard Foundation is a movement helping young people to learn, grow, and lead through volunteerism and community engagement. We look to advance sportsmanship, inclusion, kindness, and peace. By encouraging people to choose kindness, work for inclusion, and embrace diversity in local communities, we aim to influence a generation to build bridges of cultural understanding and deepen community and neighborhood connections.

We challenge you to “Do More and Serve With Us.” Our campaign invites people of all ages, abilities, religions, and ethnicities to get excited about volunteerism. We hope to not only influence your attitude but equip you with the tools and opportunities to act through our Foundation-led initiatives, programming, and partnerships. Community engagement shows its effects over time, not overnight. When we work to better our communities, we better our future.


Serve With Us on Sunday, April 15. This year, our largest day of service includes a dozen cleanup sites in Dorchester and a Community Service Village on Town Field, where projects range from the creation of literacy kits, peace flags, reusable grocery bags, and meals of hope to “No More Hurting People. Peace” banners. Together, we serve on the anniversary of the explosions at the Boston Marathon, commonly known now as One Boston Day. One Boston Day commemorates the tragedy that occurred in 2013 but allows the community to celebrate unity and common good. Continue to Serve With Us all year as we model the true meaning of civic engagement through regular service programs and collection drives for those most in need of kindness.

It is a fitting tribute to Martin that his Foundation focuses on the belief of giving oneself to friends, family, and community as it is a concept that he embraced at a young age in his school, parish, and neighborhood association. Young and old are remarkable as individuals and even more so when united in a movement. Join our movement. Choose kindness. Build bridges. Do more.


Update: Due to the wintry weather forecast for Sunday, April 15, the Martin Richard Foundation’s clean-up and gardening service projects have been postponed to April 22. Service Village projects will proceed on April 15 indoors at the IBEW Local 103 Hall at 256 Freeport Street, Dorchester from 12:30-3:30 pm. Volunteers may contact service@martinrichardfoundation.org with questions about their assignments.

Denise Richard is the acting Executive Director of the Martin Richard Foundation, a nonprofit that funds projects that advance the mission of kindness, justice, and peace. For more information, visit martinrichardfoundation.org/our-work.