Rachel Romeo, 2007 Valedictorian at Brentwood High, has a strong connection to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, and is running her first marathon to benefit the Martin Richard Foundation for the famous race in April 17, 2017.

She’s training hard, even during her holiday visit to Brentwood.

Martin Richard. // SUBMITTED

Martin Richard was only 8 years old when he was one of 4 people killed in the bombings at the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013.  Martin and his family stood near the finish line cheering for runners when the second of two bombs went of. Martin was killed by the blast; sister Jane, then age seven, was critically injured and lost her left leg; mother Denise lost the sight in her right eye; father Bill suffered permanent hearing damage; and brother Henry, then 11, witnessed the horror but escaped critical physical injury.

In the days after the bombing, a photo of Martin holding a handmade poster that read “No more hurting people. Peace” was shared over the Internet and made many see Martin as a symbol of peace.

In January of 2014, Bill and Denise Richard established the Martin W. Richard Charitable Foundation, Inc. to honor Martin’s message of peace by investing in education, athletics and community. The Foundation has relationships with community organizations ranging from sports groups to children’s theater, to a Down Syndrome group to a family shelter.

The Foundation strives to encourage youth and adults to improve the lives of others and become bridge builders, peacemakers, leaders and entrepreneurs. The Foundation’s Boston Marathon team—named Team MR8 for Martin’s initials and his favorite sports number—secures its main source of income annually.

bhs-grad-in-marathonRachel became aware of the foundation through her neuroscience research on the effects of poverty on early childhood development through her doctoral program, a joint program between Harvard and MIT. Martin was one of the children at his elementary school who participated in one of Rachel’s research projects on language development, exactly one year before he died. The day of the bombing, Rachel was working at Massachusetts General Hospital just a few blocks away, and she felt the ground shake before watching the people stream in. Three days later, MIT police Officer Sean Collier was killed directly outside her lab in Cambridge before the infamous manhunt ensued. She remembers the paralyzing fear of that week, but also the enveloping sense of community which has persisted throughout Boston ever since.

Begun in 1897, the Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon, and is renowned for its difficulty and highly competitive application process. Rachel has watched from the sidelines for the past 3 years, cheering and supporting friends amidst the pack of more than 30,000 runners. This year, she decided to push herself to join in on the other side.

Rachel, never an athlete, has only run a few short races, but applied to run for the foundation and Martin’s legacy because of her personal connection to Martin and her strong desire to see young children succeed. That makes training throughout the brutal Boston winter a bit easier. She’s even completed her first long distance run in half a foot of snow!

Rachael Romeo is dying her hair a different color each month to encourage donations. // SUBMITTED

Rachel has a goal of raising $7,500 for the charity before Marathon Monday on April 17, 2017. To encourage donations, she is dying her hair a different color each month based on donors’ votes on her fundraising website.  Due to last month’s donations, her hair is purple for Christmas. Blue and hot pink are strong contenders for January. She is also promising costumed runs for larger donations.

To read more about Rachel’s story and donate to her fundraiser, visit: https://www.crowdrise.com/MR8Boston2017/fundraiser/RachelRomeo
To learn more about the Martin Richard Foundation, visit: www.martinrichardfoundation.org

The Martin W. Richard Foundation has tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code. The Tax ID number is 35-2491896.