Philadelphia Loves Jane
Across the country, the Irish dance community has come together to support 7-year-old Jane Richard, a budding Irish dancer, who lost her leg in the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15. Jane’s brother, Martin, 8, was one of three people killed in the blast which also injured her mother, Denise.
And, of course, Philadelphia is sending the love. Last week, the Cummins School of Irish Dance raised more than $8,500 for the Richard Family Fund at its Feis at the Beach in Wildwood, NJ. Local schools have also sent t-shirts to a group that calls itself “Wrapping Jane in Our Love,” which is turning those shirts into a quilt for Jane, who has been an Irish dance student at Clifden Academy in Milton, MA.
This week, Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade Director Michael Bradley, along with Sheila Sweeney of the McDade-Cara School of Irish Dance in Delaware County and John Dougherty, business manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 98, sent out a joint email inviting other Irish organizations to join “Philadelphia Loves Boston,” an effort to raise money for the family who are facing crushing medical bills. Checks made out to the Richard Family Fund can be sent to PO Box 477, Paoli, PA 19301. The fund, started by family and friends of the Richards, has raised more than $300,000 so far.
The campaign will culminate with a dance event at the annual Penn’s Landing Irish Festival, which will be held on June 2 this year. One child from each of the region’s many schools will be on stage to dance for Jane and there will be specially designed t-shirts on sale, the proceeds of which will go to the fund.
“We sent the email out on Monday and we already have 100 people who’ve pledged their support,” says Sweeney. “We have four checks in the post office box already too. The Irish community in Philadelphia is really, really generous.”
McDade-Cara’s annual Four Provinces Feis, to be held this weekend at Marple Sports Arena, 611 Parkway Drive in Broomall, was already raising money for a victim of Hurricane Sandy, but, says Sweeney, they decided to donate all entry fees for the Charity Treble Reel to the Richard family. “Normally you have to register for the feis a month ahead of time, but we changed it so you can enter the Charity Treble Reel that day,” she says. “We have 10 groups so far, and more than 1,000 kids are entered altogether. We’ll also have donation buckets for those who want to donate.”
Jane Richard remains in the hospital in Boston, though her mother has been released. Her brother was buried this week in a private ceremony . In this amateur video, you can see Jane being ministered to by an off-duty fireman who was in a coffee shop at the time of the second blast, which struck the Richard family who were watching the race behind the barricades.
The story of the Richard family would have been touching whether or not Jane Richard was an Irish dancer, but Sweeney admits that connection brought it closer to home. “First as a mother,” she says, “and then as someone who teaches 100 students a week, it’s just so hard to fathom. When you look at these little girls, they’re so sweet, so innocent. I’m just happy to see all the Irish dance schools coming together for this cause.”