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Saturday, May 11, 2013
Updated: May 16, 2:26 AM ET
A month later, still Boston Strong

By Jack McCluskey
Special to ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- The day began with a memorial and ended with a community rocked by mayhem.

Before the 117th Boston Marathon started, there was a moment of silence for the victims of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting. The Boston Athletic Association had also placed special mile markers at Mile 26, for the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, with the Newtown seal on them.

Jeff Bauman
Marathon victim Jeff Bauman, who helped the FBI identify the suspected bombers, was honored before a Bruins playoff game.

It was a simple gesture, a way to honor the memory of those lost to senseless violence.

Little did anyone know that by the end of the day -- exactly one month ago -- there would be a new tragedy to come to grips with. After two bomb blasts killed three and injured more than 264 near the finish line on Boylston Street, an athletic institution, a city and a region found themselves grappling with a new, painful reality.

But before the dust had settled, before the last siren had faded and the last ambulance delivered the last victim to the emergency room, the response had begun.

The stories are everywhere. Runners, fresh off their 26.2-mile journey, kept going to donate blood. Off-duty police officers, firefighters and medical personnel flocked to the scene to help. Good Samaritans loaned phones to stranded runners to contact loved ones, opened their homes to those displaced and did anything they could to ease the suffering of strangers.

And while the city's professional athletes weren't among the first responders (well, some of them were), didn't save lives or help with the massive manhunt that left the city paralyzed for most of a day and ended with one suspect dead and the other captured in a boat in a Watertown backyard, they have also done their part.

***

It was the first professional game held in Boston since the attacks, and emotions were running high.

Rene Rancourt, the Bruins' longtime anthem singer, wasn't sure he would be able to get through the song he's sung hundreds of times before. Then the Bruins had an idea: Why not prompt the crowd with a few opening words from "The Star-Spangled Banner" and then simply hold the mike out and let the crowd sing the rest?

Bruins fans
The Bruins-Sabres game at TD Garden two days after the bombings gave the city its first chance to come together and begin healing.

It was a cathartic moment, one that resonated broadly.

And while the B's lost the game, the team helped sports fans in the region take a step toward normalcy. It was a sign that it was OK to cheer again, to revel in athletic accomplishment, to take a break from the troubles of daily life.

That wasn't the only step taken. Before the game, Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs announced the team would donate $100,000, along with $50,000 each from the TD Garden, the NHL and the NHL Players' Association, to The One Fund Boston.

Set up by Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Massachusetts Gov. Deval L. Patrick and seeded with a $1 million donation from marathon title sponsor John Hancock, The One Fund Boston had received more than $30 million in donations since the attack.

Included in that number are donations of all sizes from businesses large and small, from Fortune 500 companies (including ESPN's parent company, The Walt Disney Company) to local restaurants and breweries, from tens of thousands of individuals and from all four of Boston's major sports franchises.

The day after the attacks, the Kraft family pledged to match the first $100,000 in donations made to The One Fund through the New England Patriots and New England Revolution charitable foundations. In fewer than 72 hours, they had reached their six-figure goal.

On the night of the NFL draft's first round, the Krafts announced that the teams' foundations, the NFL Foundation, Major League Soccer, the Major League Soccer Players Union, the tenants of Patriot Place and two Kraft family friends, Roger Stone and Ron Perelman, had combined to raise $617,000 for the One Fund.

The Red Sox, MLB and the MLB Players Association and the Red Sox Foundation pledged a combined $646,500. And the Celtics' Shamrock Foundation pledged $100,000, and will match another $100,000 in donations.

All told, Boston's four major professional sports franchises (and their leagues) have combined to contribute nearly $2 million to The One Fund.

***

They're teammates now, linked by a common cause and clothed in common colors. One is a fleet-footed wide receiver, the other a wide-bodied defensive lineman.

Both were affected by the attacks, and moved to help.

Danny Amendola hasn't played a down for the Patriots yet, but he was clearly shaken by the bombings. Monday evening, on April 15, he posted the following on Twitter:

Prayers out to Boston...

 Danny Amendola (@DannyAmendola) April 15, 2013

A few hours later, Amendola was back with a pledge:

I will DONATE $100 for EVERY pass I catch next season to whatever "Boston Marathon Relief Fund" there is. And $200 for any dropped pass.

 Danny Amendola (@DannyAmendola) April 16, 2013

The wideout had 63 receptions and just two drops in 2012 as a member of the St. Louis Rams. His career high in receptions is 85 (set in 2010). If he matches his production from last season, he'll be donating about $7,000.

Vince Wilfork, the longest-tenured Patriots player after Tom Brady, also took to Twitter to express his concern:

Praying for Boston tonight this is my home going on 10 years I feel the pain in my heart

 Vince Wilfork (@wilfork75) April 16, 2013

And the next afternoon, @wilfork75 was back to raise money for the victims:

If we get 1000 people 2donate the Vince Wilfork Foundation will donate an additional $10,000.00 to help the victims of this horrible event

 Vince Wilfork (@wilfork75) April 16, 2013

Two days after the attack, Wilfork tweeted that more than 1,000 people had donated and that the Vince Wilfork Foundation had raised close to $30,000 between donations and his own $10,000 match.

Both Wilfork and Amendola have declined multiple requests for interviews related to their charitable undertakings.

***

The first thing that they have to deal with is the grief.

Though the quick actions of first responders on the scene at the finish line undoubtedly saved lives, many bombing victims suffered injuries so severe as to require amputation. Now, the amputees face a life drastically different than the one they lived before 2:49 p.m. ET on April 15.

"[You're] wondering what your life will be like & can you do the things you used to do?" said Rose Bissonnette, founder of the New England Amputee Association. "All these emotions a person feels, and more, during those first days and sometimes weeks after the amputation."

And while there's a definite financial need facing these patients -- with expensive prostheses to buy, mounting medical bills and sometimes modifications needed to homes -- the emotional need might be even more significant.

Local athletes have played a part in lifting patients' spirits, visiting them in hospital rooms and doing what they can to bring smiles to victims' faces.

Bruins tough guy Shawn Thornton visited bombing victim Jeff Bauman with WEEI "Dennis and Callahan" co-host Gerry Callahan:

Here is @gerrycallahan with Jeff Bauman and Sean Thornton at the hospital yesterday, get well soon Jeff!twitter.com/GerryCallahan/&

 Dennis and Callahan (@DandCShow) April 25, 2013

Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, star point guard Rajon Rondo and rookie big man Jared Sullinger spent some time with at least one victim. And Patriots running back Stevan Ridley and tight end Rob Gronkowski spent time with a number of patients:

Boston's Strongest!! Y'all keep fighting and we'll keep praying!! @robgronkowski twitter.com/StevanRidley/s&

 Stevan Ridley (@StevanRidley) April 23, 2013

These are small gestures on the athletes' part, just a few minutes out of a day. But they can make a big impact.

On Saturday, April 27, Ridley and a few teammates took a little time for another cause. Ridley, Brandon Bolden, Alfonzo Dennard, Ryan Mallett and Jerod Mayo showed up at Durfee High School in Fall River, Mass., for "Dodgeballin' for Kids."

The five Patriots played a few games of dodgeball against teams entered in the tournament, which raises money for children's charities in greater Fall River and this year pledged 30 percent of the proceeds to victims of the marathon bombings. They shook a few hands and posed for a few photos with fans before slipping out a back entrance without talking to reporters.

Before the balls began to fly, Ridley addressed the crowd.

"We're here for a special event, for a charity event," the 24-year-old running back said, "but we can't take for granted each day that we're walking, that we have limbs and we have our health, so ya'll remember each and every night to just say a prayer for the victims."

***

When the Red Sox played their first game in Boston since the attacks, they wore the word "Boston" on their white home uniforms instead of the usual "Red Sox."

The Red Sox wives -- thanks to Kelli Pedroia, two Emerson College students and the initiative of a couple of members of the Red Sox front office -- were also wearing "Boston" that day. They wore white T-shirts with "Boston Strong" written across them in yellow lettering.

The shirts, designed by Emerson students Nick Reynolds and Chris Dobens, are yet another example of how much people just want to help.

Reynolds and Dobens were sitting around their dorm, watching the footage of the disaster in Copley Square, and decided they needed to do something. Anything.

"We found ourselves and the college community in general feeling helpless, and we wanted to come up with a way the average college student could help out," Reynolds said by email. "It was Chris' idea to do T-shirts -- he's worked in a silk-screen [printing] company before -- and we decided to run with it."

Reynolds designed the shirt -- a royal blue tee with yellow lettering -- and the duo found a printing company online that agreed to donate the full $20 cost of the first 1,500 shirts ordered, and $15 for every shirt thereafter.

As they launched their campaign late on Patriots Day, Reynolds and Dobens hoped at least 110 people would order the T-shirts (the minimum order the company required to print the shirts). To get the word out, the duo took to Facebook and Twitter.

They had reached their original goal by the next morning.

Kelli Pedroia reached out to them out of the blue about getting shirts for the Red Sox wives and families, and the duo happily provided the design and the Red Sox got shirts printed in time for Saturday's game.

That afternoon, Kelli Pedroia tweeted:

Redsox wives were excited to meet Nick & Chris. Buy a shirt to support onefundboston.org inktothepeople.com/marketplace/in& twitter.com/mrspedroia15/s&

 Kelli Pedroia (@mrspedroia15) April 20, 2013

The "Boston Strong" T-shirt campaign now has more than 54,000 orders and has raised more than $825,000 for The One Fund Boston.

***

Brad Marchand's style of play has gotten him called many things, including a choice few not suitable for publication.

Richard
The death of 8-year-old Martin Richard in particular led the Bruins' Brad Marchand to take action.

But since the marathon bombings, the pesky Bruins winger's actions just might earn him a new moniker: philanthropist.

In a diary entry for ESPNBoston.com, Marchand said he was asleep when the bombs went off on Boylston Street. When his girlfriend woke him up and he saw what had happened, he said "the whole situation was devastating."

He found himself particularly affected by the death of Martin Richard, an 8-year-old Bruins fan from Dorchester. So he decided to raffle off his luxury suite at TD Garden for the B's first home playoff game, with the proceeds going to the Richard family.

"The idea came to me when I was lying in bed," he wrote in his diary post. "I had the box for one game. I spoke to my PR guys in the morning and asked if it could happen. They said they would definitely be able to figure something out. They came back to me and said a raffle seemed the best idea. I agreed."

The raffle generated more than $200,000 for the Richard family.

It's a simple gesture, a way to honor those hurt and killed by senseless violence. It's the kind of gesture that has been repeated many times over already in the wake of the attacks -- an individual finding a way to give something to those in need -- and that likely will be repeated many more times to come.

Though he is a professional athlete, in the wake of the tragedy at the Boston Marathon, Brad Marchand is like so many others.

"I just wanted to help out any way I could."

Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.