Team MR8 will run its last official Boston Marathon next year, marking the end of an amazing effort to raise funds and awareness for a good cause that grew from tragedy.

Eight-year-old Martin Richard was one of five people killed as a result of the 2013 terrorist bombings at the Boston Marathon – explosions that rocked the finish line, injured more than 200 people, and sent shock waves across the country. Martin’s sister, Jane, lost a leg and his mother, Denise, was blinded in one eye by the blast. Martin’s father, Bill Richard, lost some of his hearing when one of the two pressure cooker bombs exploded. The Richards became the symbols of Boston Strong, a family at the center of tragic loss and long recoveries, struggling to rise up and give hope to others. 

Over the weekend, the Richard family announced it was time to move on from the annual Team MR8 – a marathon running team named after Martin Richard’s favorite number – which has raised about $1 million each year for the Martin Richard Foundation. The foundation was established to promote sportsmanship, kindness and peace – traits Martin exemplified in his young life. The fundraising led to the creation of memorials along Boylston Street and Martin’s Park, a one-acre park and playground where children like Martin can revel in being children. The family told The Boston Globe that the marathon team – which has fielded runners in the Boston, Chicago and New York marathons – would run its last race in 2020, although the foundation will continue in Martin’s name. 

The Martin family was thrust into the public eye after the bombs exploded and the focus turned to the victims, including Martin, Lingzi Lu, a 23-year-old student from China studying at Boston University, 29-year-old Krystle Campbell, and Sean Collier, an MIT police officer killed in his cruiser by brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as they tried to escape a police dragnet. Boston police officer Dennis Simmonds was injured by a pipe bomb thrown by the Tsarnaevs in Watertown as they tried to escape. Simmonds died after suffering a brain aneurysm a year after the attacks, and his name was added to the list of those who lost their lives because of the attacks.

Even as they struggled with their son’s death and recovery from the grievous injuries to Jane and Denise Richard, the family created a foundation and crafted a mission to help “young people to learn, grow and lead through volunteerism and community engagement,” and “to advance sportsmanship, inclusion, kindness and peace.” A photo of Martin, holding his handmade sign urging “Peace,” became the charity’s symbol. 

Since it was founded, the Martin Richard Foundation has partnered with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Dorchester; College Bound Dorchester; the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation; the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute – named for a 15-year-old who was shot and killed on a Dorchester Street in 1993; Project 351; and several others. It also has donated thousands of dollars to community partners, with an emphasis on Dorchester where the Richard family lives. The foundation gives one-time grants of $500 to $9,500 to individuals and groups for short-term projects and sponsorships, and it offers three Impact Grants each year between $10,000 and $25,000 “to community-based, nonprofit organizations that empower, educate and lead young people to be agents of change in their communities,” according to the foundation website.

Although the marathon runners won’t be formally running for the foundation after 2020, we’re sure many shirts will still bear the MR8 logo for years to come, as runners stream past the Boylston Street sculptures in memory of those who died in the bombings. More importantly, the many good works by the Richard family will continue through the Martin Richard Foundation, empowering, educating and instilling leadership in generations of young people.

For more on the foundation: http://www.teammr8.org

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