The power of peace, optimism, and a young boy's spirit could be felt Thursday at Fenway Park, where the Martin Richard Foundation held its first fund-raiser of the year, ahead of the Boston Marathon.
About 200 people, including about 75 runners who are part of Team MR8 that will run the Marathon this April, gathered at the park's EMC Club. The team helps raise funds for the foundation in memory of 8-year-old Martin Richard of Dorchester, the youngest victim of the 2013 Marathon bombings.
"We are really trying to live by our mission, and incorporate groups that fit into our mission," said Bill Richard, Martin's father.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who also was on hand, said, "The Richard family is incredible, you all know that."
Referring to the runners aiding the foundation, the mayor said, "You're incredible, I want to thank you for everything you do."
This is the third year that MR8 is raising money for the Martin Richard Foundation, which strives for peace and invests in education, athletics, and community. The team's goal is to raise $500,000 this year.
Governor Charlie Baker, also present, brought up another Martin: Martin Luther King Jr.
"His notion of a beloved community . . . is among the most compelling and enduring ideals we have," Baker said. "That's what MR8 is all about, and that's what [Martin Richard's] message is all about."
Boston Marathon runner Chris Peterson, a family friend of the Richards, offered some advice to the runners.
"As a member of Team MR8 you're going to light the way for each other," he said. "You've already done the hardest part, which is signing up to be a part of MR8. You just have to put one foot in front of the other, that will get you to 26.2 miles."
Barbara Thorp, program director of the One Fund Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, said before the event, "I think we need to continue to heal together. The Richard family are incredible leaders. . . . An event like this reminds people that this has not been forgotten."
Nicole Lunt, 31, of Salem, a first-time Boston Marathon runner and a member of MR8, was there to support the Richard family and the purpose of their foundation.
"My husband grew up across the street from Bill Richard, so they are family friends," she said. "When the tragedy took place, it was really difficult, but I knew one day that I wanted to give back. Running has been my thing, and the only thing I have to give back was to join the MR8 team."
Another first-time runner and team member, Courtney Campbell, 30, of Medford, added, "I feel like the events of 2013 made an impact on everyone, and I felt like this was an opportunity to make a difference, a small difference, [and] try to bring some positive aspects to a negative event."
MR8's name comes from Martin Richard's initials and his favorite sports number.
Other speakers Thursday included Thomas Grilk of the Boston Athletic Association, Susan Hurley of Charity Teams, and Henry Richard, brother of Martin, who leads the foundation's Youth Board.
Walsh also spoke at the event about the city's plans to create a park in memory of Martin Richard, which will be located in the Seaport District next to the Boston Children's Museum.
"We're currently in the midst of the planning stages," he said. "It's going to be one of the first public amenities at the Seaport. Most importantly, it's going to be an inclusive park. . . . Martin inspired us to do something special."
"When you walk in this room you see everyone smiling," Walsh said. "Bill talked about Martin's spirit, it's in this room, it's in this city, it's in this country, every single day. We feel that. It's an honor to be a part of such a special movement. And the MR8 foundation is a movement."
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