After a month of planning and with help from about 100 volunteers, Dorchester residents gathered Sunday to paint, eat, and raise money for the Marathon bombing victims in a daylong event they called Hometown Comfort.
Planning the event provided an outlet for neighborhood residents, some of whom know the family of Martin Richard, the 8-year-old from the Ashmont Adams neighborhood who was killed in the bombings. Others were shaken by the attacks, and then cooped up in their homes when officials urged residents to stay indoors as police searched for one of the bombing suspects in Watertown.
The day after the suspect was captured, Chris Douglass, the chef and owner of Ashmont Grill and Tavolo restaurants who has lived in Ashmont Hill since 1987, said he started talking to friends and neighbors about planning a neighborhood event.
“Everybody was in grief, and shock, and angry,” Douglass said. “Then people got into a ‘do’ mode, and this is a very ‘do’ community.”
A group of neighborhood residents — business owners, nonprofit employees, parents, and friends — has been meeting to plan the event every Sunday and Wednesday since April 21, six days after the bombings.
“We’re all affected by this thing, and our friends were hurt in the bombing,” said Chris Stanley, an Ashmont Adams resident who helped coordinate children’s activities for the event. “And we wanted to do something. It keeps us busy, keeps our mind off our grief.”
Michael Maffeo of Dorchester spent Sunday afternoon shuttling his three sons between moon bounces on the blacktop behind the IBEW Local 103 hall in Dorchester where the event was held.
His sons, Matty, 8, and 10-year-old twins Zack and Luke, knew Martin Richard, he said.
“It never really sunk in on them, but they know he’s not at baseball,” Maffeo said while his sons jumped on a moon bounce, out of earshot. “They’re mostly confused.”
Maffeo said he thought it was important for him and his sons to support the Marathon bombing victims and others in their community.
“They’re having fun. And it’s a Sunday, and they’re not playing video games or watching television,” he said.
As more families arrived at the event Sunday afternoon, firefighter Daniel McDevitt of South Boston, who came with a truck from Engine 17 on Meetinghouse Hill, put an old firefighter’s helmet on the tiny head of a child.
Further down the union hall parking lot, Red Cross volunteers handed out granola bars and cards about coping with disasters emotionally.
Bianca Andreal of Everett, a 17-year-old senior at Cristo Rey Boston High School in Savin Hill, volunteered at a booth where children tried to kick a soccer ball into a small, circular hole in a painted tarp.
“We’re getting a lot of kids, a lot of good kickers,” she said.
Under a tent near the DJ station children painted small canvas circles that employees from Dot Art, a Dorchester arts and education nonprofit, later tacked onto an 8-foot plywood circle to create a community art project.
The event was to continue Sunday evening. Tom Ashbrook, host of NPR’s “On Point” from WBUR Boston, hosted a dinner donated by chefs from 29 local restaurants with live music and an auction to benefit the One Fund.
Organizers said they expected one of the auction packages, a chance to toss a football with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady at the team’s training camp this summer, to be the most coveted.
Other items included Boston Bruins tickets donated by Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, an Apple iMac, iPod Touch, and iPad Mini, and tickets to the Boston Strong concert at the TD Garden.
State Senate President Therese Murray, who grew up in Dorchester and now lives in Plymouth, served as auctioneer.Gal Tziperman Lotan can be reached at email@example.com.