Neighborhood tough as nails
Tim Deihl i04 creates fund for family torn by marathon tragedy
In a split second, the Boston Marathon became a crime scene. As locals began to pick up the pieces of their lives in the hours after the tragedy, one community in Dorchester, Mass. had already started collecting something together to ease the burden of loss.
Tim Deihl '04 has lived in the Boston area for much of his life, including his time at Brandeis, where he received a degree in American Studies. He is a neighbor and friend of the Richard family. His son, eight-year old Martin Richard was killed, while Martin's mother and sister remain in critical condition.
Bill Richard and Deihl are both involved in the St. Marks Area Main Street organization in Dorchester, a group that focuses on the commercial revitalization of the St. Mark's Area business district. Richard is on the board of directors and former president, while Deihl is currently the acting president of the St. Mark's board.
Deihl was at home with his wife when the explosions happened. They had family members running in the marathon that day whom they were tracking online; they were about to finish the race. Once they were aware of the explosion, "[i]t was a full wave of emotions going from nervousness about your family, to feeling relieved that they were OK to absolute shock that some of the victims were people that you knew ... that were active members in your community," Deihl said.
"People were trying to figure out how to help," Deihl said. Almost immediately after the tragedy happened, Deihl began filling out the paperwork that would allow him to open an account under the St. Marks Area Main street non-profit status in which all donations would go directly to the Richard family. "We decided to become the connection between those inquiries... [and] connect people to an opportunity to pass along those gifts."
The account was nearly ready for business, but Deihl still had one problem: he needed to figure out how to make people aware of the fund's existence.
He needed a way to get the word out to a large audience through some kind of online platform. Luckily, another friend of the Richards family, Chris Peterson, was working with a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Civic Media on a website at the same time. Peterson found out about the fund and got in contact with him."I had no idea how to connect to any kind of webpage platform so it was a blessing that he happened to call," said Deihl.
The family needs money to offset the steep health costs they will incur over the next few years. Many people were immediately trying to figure out how to donate, but as Deihl explained, there was a period of a couple days between when the website was ready to be launched and when the family gave its permission to open the site. "Initially the need was for privacy and space so there was a delay in launching the website," he said. "In these moments of tragedy the most important thing anyone can ever remember is to not just act to satisfy your own desire to help but act to satisfy and fulfill the needs of those going through the tragedy."
Through word of mouth and social media, the Richard Family Fund took off. Local sports teams such as the Boston Bruins reached out, but there was also an "outpour of love from all around the world," said Deihl. He explained that people from countries around the world were calling him saying they had held a private fund-raiser and were hoping to find a way to donate that money directly to the family. In this way, the Richard Family Fund became a direct, safe and reliable way of giving back.
When the account was first opened, Deihl did not have a specific amount of money in mind; he merely acted "in response." So far, the website has raised over $726,330.29, and that number continues to rise.
They chose to use an independently-run website as opposed to a large fund-raising site to avoid the costs associated with that method, which might cut into the money that would otherwise end up in the wallets of the Richard family.
Deihl said he was totally impressed by the community response to the unfortunate circumstances of the Richard family. "Dorchester as a community is by far and away one of the strongest neighborhoods I've ever lived in," Deihl said.
Deihl reminds us that as uncomfortable as it may feel to admit, the marathon bombings brought out the best in many people, especially himself. "The way these people pull together to help this family is one of the beautiful things that comes out of something so tragic."
It was previously stated that Bill Richard was runner in the 2013 Boston Marathon. Richard was not a participant of the Boston Marathon.