Hours after Massachusetts police captured the second suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings Monday, the Joggers Club of Westport hit Compo Beach early Saturday for a fundraising run to help those most severely affected by the attacks during the Patriot's Day event.
Dozens turned out to make donations for victims of the marathon finish-line explosions, including the family of 8-year-old Richard Martin, killed as he watched his father complete the race, and 27-year-old Jeff Bauman, who lost both legs as he waited for his girlfriend to finish. Contributions from the Westport run will go to The One Fund (www.onefundboston.org), established by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.
The event was conceived by Sally Freedman, who said, "The Joggers Club, which is about seven years old, meets regularly at Compo on Saturdays during the cold months," she said. "We usually have 15 runners at most on busy days. We only had six last weekend because most were in Boston for the marathon."
Freedman said that during the marathon last week, many club members not participating watched the coverage of the 117th event from their respective workplaces. "I started getting texts from people who thought I was at the race and were worried about me" in the aftermath of the blasts, she said.
"That's how I found out about the bombings. I went on Facebook and started looking for posts from runners we knew and tried to figure out where everyone was," Freedman said. "We had seven club members participating, a massage therapist working the event and a reporter friend from The Running Times. It took a few hours, but we were able to confirm everyone was safe."
Freedman said she learned to run from her parents and had been to the Boston Marathon many times in the past to watch them. "What put it in perspective for me was hearing about little Richard Martin, who was watching his dad participate," she said. "That was me 30 years ago. It felt like an attack on your community of people. It was scary to feel helpless from afar."
That said, Freedman two days later suggested to Dave Menoni, the Joggers Club founder and president, that their group should do something special for the Boston runners. "We started to post things on Facebook and email our group, and word spread like wild fire," she said. "It went from being a small gathering idea with extra coffee to a community fundraiser with dozens of people. We literally touched hundreds. People want to help."
She added, "I think the point is to turn the situation into a positive event for the community -- evil into good and to support the desire of people to help."
Kelly Konstanty of Westport, participating in Saturday's run with her son A.J., said, "I'm from Massachusetts originally, we moved down here two years ago. We were in Boston for a Red Sox game at 11 a.m. on the morning of the marathon. After the game, we had to head to the Children's Hospital of Boston for a scheduled x-ray on my son's ankle.
We got a text about the bombings, then started seeing victims being admitted," Konstanty recalled. "By the time we left, there were police everywhere. The hospital was incredible in dealing with the situation. We decided to join this run as Boston holds a special place in our hearts."
As runners set off on the Compo course, Freedman said, "Whether you run 26 minutes or 26 miles, you're a runner. And today we're Boston strong."