People from Concord and around the world pull together donations for Jeff Bauman
An emergency responder and volunteers, including Carlos Arredondo in the cowboy hat, push Jeff Bauman in a wheel chair after he was injured in an explosion near the finish line of the Boston Marathon Monday, April 15, 2013 in Boston. At least three people were killed, including an 8-year-old boy, and more than 170 were wounded when two bombs blew up seconds apart. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
In less than two days, thousands of complete strangers have come together to provide Jeffrey Bauman, the young man with Concord ties pictured in a now-iconic photo from the Boston Marathon bombings, with more than $100,000 and the promise of two prosthetic legs.
Donations have poured in from Bauman’s home state of Massachusetts, as well as Texas, California, Finland, Canada and the United Kingdom. Steve Chamberland, who runs a nonprofit in Florida that provides prosthetic legs for amputees, has promised to do so for Bauman and at least three other marathon victims. A construction company based in Lowell, Mass., has committed to building a wheelchair ramp and handicapped-accessible front door for Bauman’s home.
Support has poured in from Concord, too, where Bauman’s father and stepmother, Jeff and Csilla Bauman, live. Bauman grew up in Chelmsford, Mass., but visits Concord often. Fund drives have been established by Concord Youth Hockey and the Bedford Village Inn. The TD Bank in Steeplegate Mall has been flooded with people wanting to donate to Bucks for Bauman, a fund established by Bauman’s high school friends. NHTI will host a series of events next week to honor Bauman and other victims.
“The image of him is haunting, I think it’s just touched upon a whole lot of people, me included,” said Martha McGowan, manager at the TD Bank in Steeplegate Mall. People were coming in all day wanting to donate money, she said.
Bauman lost both of his legs in the bombing that claimed three lives and injured more than 170 people. He’s been recovering at Boston Medical Center, where he was the first person to go into surgery. He is being positive, his stepmother, Csilla, said Wednesday morning, and his family and friends have provided an incredible support system.
One cost the family won’t have to pay is for two prosthetic legs, which will be provided by Chamberland’s charity, 50 Legs. Bauman’s uncle called Chamberland earlier this week and Chamberland pledged the support of his organization, established two years ago to provide prosthetics to amputees. Chamberland, an amputee himself from Lowell, Mass., will travel to Boston and meet Bauman and the other victims he is helping early next week. In addition to paying for the legs, he sets amputees up with companies that he trusts. That may mean flying Bauman and others down to Florida to work with a company that he says is the best.
“I do this because I lost my leg, and I know what it’s like to not have the best leg, that’s the reason we started this,” he said.
Brooke Gibbs, a longtime friend of Bauman’s and an organizer of the Bucks for Bauman fundraiser, is amazed by the overwhelming response the fund has received. She started with a goal of $20,000, which was hit within just a few hours. She moved it to $100,000, then to $200,000 as the donations kept pouring in. The money will go to the family for any expenses necessary, including making Jeffrey’s and his families’ homes handicapped accessible. A construction business from Lowell has already pledged to donate labor and materials for a ramp into the home.
“I started the site and started the bank account expecting friends and family from Chelmsford would be reached and would want to help, (but) in hours all the sudden people from all over the world had contacted me,” Gibbs said. “The comments were so heartfelt.”
Local organizations have also pulled together to aide the family. Bauman’s two half-brothers, Chris and Alan, were active in Concord Youth Hockey, which the elder Jeff Bauman also coached. There’s a fundraising page for Bauman on the group’s website.
“A member of the Concord Hockey family need a hand – we ask for your help because – It’s what we do!” Wes Riley, Concord Youth Hockey treasurer, wrote on the site.
The Bedford Village Inn, where Csilla worked for years, is donating 100 percent of the sales of its famous chocolate bags now through Sunday to the family, said Melissa Quinn, corporate sales manager. They’re also adding a special twist of blueberry, which Csilla told them is Bauman’s favorite flavor, to the recipe, creating a blueberry white chocolate mousse bag. Each bag costs $11 and all the money will go to Bauman.
Several Costco stores across New England are also raising money for Bauman, who works at the Costco in Nashua. John Szrejna and Scott Steglinski, from the Enfield, Conn., and West Springfield, Mass., stores, respectively, are gathering money in giant water jugs. Szrejna has set up a poster board for workers to write messages to Bauman that he will eventually send to the family, even though none of them know Bauman.
“It kind of hit home when you find out that somebody who works for the company, and pretty close by, was hurt,” Szrejna said.
Bauman’s injury hit close to home for NHTI students, too, said Chuck Lloyd, director of student life. Bauman, 27, has plans to go back to school for civil engineering, which reflects a similar path that many nontraditional NHTI students take. A group of students gathered to organize events to honor the victims, and when they heard about Bauman’s local connections the events took on a greater meaning, Lloyd said.
Students will hold a moment of silence Monday, exactly one week after the first bombing occurred. Then they’ll walk around the track, seeing how many collective marathons they can complete. On Tuesday, all students are encouraged to wear Boston sports apparel, to honor the city and Bauman, who is a Boston sports fan.
“We kind of want to carry the theme of Jeff through NHTI,” Lloyd said. “To us it’s threaded within what we’re already doing.”