Team 8 for Boston: Sending love from ToledoWritten by Jeremy Baumhower | | firstname.lastname@example.org
On April 15, the Boston Marathon bombings shocked our nation.
Video highlights ran on a continuous loop on every television station as authorities tried to figure out what exactly happened and who was responsible.
Martin was a child who went to the race simply to support his father and watch him cross the finish line.
The first picture of the boy that emerged instantly went viral. It showed him holding a sign in what appears to be a classroom, with the words “No more hurting people” and “Peace.”
His smile was jagged — probably because of the baby teeth he had recently lost — but his eyes were all too familiar. The innocence in his gaze instantly reminded me of my youngest daughter, whose seventh birthday was two days away.
That picture brought the bombings, which happened almost 800 miles away, into my home.
Fresh off writing a column challenging community leaders to step up and fight Toledo’s newfound reputation as one of Forbes’ “miserable” cities had put me in a civic state of mind. It made me want to use this space for good.
Then I saw it. An image in my head, a memory of my two youngest children running a cross-country race earlier this school year.
An almost bipolar expression of pure happiness and agony filled my little ones’ faces as they ran a half-mile and a full-mile race. From this image and my previous column, the idea for Team 8 was born.
I wanted to assemble a team of 26 8-year-olds to run a mile each, the day before the Glass City Marathon. Team 8’s mission would be to show love to both the city of Boston and to Martin’s family, all while reminding the rest of the country how big Toledo’s heart is.
Instead of politics or words, I chose the image of children, wearing matching T-shirts, running a race — the very sport that was targeted.
The rationale behind 26 kids was simple: A marathon is 26.2 miles, so collectively this group of children would run a full race. I shared the concept with my Facebook friends and Toledo Free Press and Team 8 took off.
Planning provided a nice distraction for the following days and a great way to channel the efforts of those wanting to make a difference.
We collected donations to cover race fees and T-shirts, with all proceeds raised going directly to the Richard Family Fund, which was started with a $5,000 donation by Salem Five, a Boston-area bank in Martin’s hometown.
With the generous support of Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates and many others, we collected more than $1,000, all while gathering our team of runners and spreading our message. Eleven days later, on April 27, a beautiful, near-perfect day, Team 8 was off and running. We ended up with exactly 26 children ranging in age from 6 to 11 — averaging 8 years old — all proudly running the mile race.
Participants were to loop the University of Toledo Glass Bowl twice for a total of a half-mile before going to the outside portion of the run.
Among the runners was my 9-year-old daughter Kacee, who plays soccer, runs cross-country and is a pretty competitive person.
As I had anticipated, she was at the front of the pack during the first lap and gained momentum and rank during the second lap. I knew she would finish in the top five or so; she would not have it any other way.
Then something happened. I saw her running the Glass Bowl a third time, meaning she had somehow followed the wrong person and now would be behind in the race.
Not only did she lose ground, she added more distance to her run. I did not have the heart to scream the bad news to her as she ran by; I just hoped she would finish the race strong, the way she started.
I shouldn’t have been worried. Not only did she finish strong, but she almost made her way back to the top of the pack, lapping her younger sister in the process.
When she was finished, she had tears coming down her face, her breath was gone and she was exhausted.
Kacee knew the math behind Team 8 — she knew we had 26 runners all running a mile — but Kacee was also well aware that a marathon is in fact 26.2 miles. Her mom was to run the full marathon the following day and had been training.
When she finally caught her breath, I asked if she knew she had run an extra lap. Kacee’s reply warmed my heart and stole my breath.
“I knew 26 miles was not enough for a marathon, so I ran another lap for that boy.”
For most of the day, I had been absorbed with tasks like checking in runners and getting them their T-shirts. Then she said that.
She wanted to make sure Team 8 ran the full 26.2 miles for Martin Richard, so she ran another lap.
I wanted Team 8 to reach outside our city’s limits. I wanted to show a little humanity during a moment that had none.
I had hoped it would affect a single child in Northwest Ohio, challenge him or her to think beyond our ZIP code and, in karma’s sweet way, it was my very own child.
Please join Team 8 in sending our love to the city of Boston and Martin’s family by donating to the Richard Family Fund, St. Mark’s Area Main Street, 1914 Dorchester Ave., Dorchester, MA 02124.
To contact Baumhower, email him at email@example.com, find him on Facebook or on Twitter @jeremytheproduc.