It was 2 PM on Sunday at the Marple Sports Center, the air was filled with slip jig tunes, and there were so many girls in their sparkling feis dresses you almost needed sunglasses indoors. But the most popular spot at the annual Four Provinces Feis, which drew 1,000 competitors from the east coast, wasn’t around the dance arenas. It was a table where kids could write a get-well card for Jane.
“Except for the really little ones,” said Marg King, who was overseeing the card-signing, all the dancers knew about 7-year-old Jane Richard, the little Irish dancer from Milton, MA, who lost a leg in the April 15 Boston Marathon bombing. Jane’s brother, Martin, 8, was killed in the blast as they stood at the finish line with their parents and another brother, who was uninjured. Their mother, Denise, was also hurt.
On Sunday, the dancers and their parents were buying so many of the Philadelphia Loves Boston t-shirts, hastily made up for the occasion, that there were no more small and medium sizes to be had. “They’re gone, sold out,” said King, obviously happy.
They were snapped up by people like Colleen Crossed of West Chester, whose two daughters, Tessa and Caroline, were competing. “I ran the Boston Marathon three times and remember it well,” Crossed said. “My kids were there at the finish line, just like those kids. It’s hard to imagine.” She shook her head. “But this is so nice,” she said, nodding toward the t-shirt table. “Really nice. You feel like you can do something.”
More than 100 individuals and organizations apparently feel the same way. They’ve signed on to support the “Philadelphia Loves Boston” campaign, founded by McDade Cara School of Irish Dance owner Sheila McGrory Sweeney, along with St. Patrick’s Day Parade Director Michael Bradley and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98 business manager John Dougherty. The proceeds from the sale of the t-shirts will go to the Richard Family Fund, as will the entry fees from Sunday’s Charity Treble Reel Competition (which was won by McDade Cara dancers, wearing their Jane t-shirts).
“I sent out an email last week to everyone on my list and within 24 hours we had more than 100 respond to say they wanted to support this,” said Bradley, who hustled the t-shirts into production within 24 hours too.
One of the first to respond “in about 3 seconds.” said Bradley, was Ken Casey, front man for Boston’s premier Celtic rock band, the Dropkick Murphy’s, and founder of The Claddagh Fund, which raises money for under-funded nonprofits in Boston and Philadelphia, where the DKMs have a huge fan base. The band has already raised more than $100,000 for the Richard Family Fund, to help defray their medical costs. “He got back to me and said, we’’ll do whatever you need,” said Bradley.
While the t-shirts aren’t available by mail, you can pick yours up on June 2 at the Irish Festival at Penn’s Landing, where dancers from all the Irish dancing schools will be there to perform en masse as a tribute to Jane. You can also donate to the Richard Family Fund. Checks made out to the Richard Family Fund can be sent to PO Box 477, Paoli, PA 19301.