Southern Oregon's running community lined up en masse Sunday to celebrate the life of 8-year-old Martin Richard, who was tragically killed a week ago as two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
"It's been really hard for me not to just break down and cry this week," said Justin Rosas, standing before a crowd of about 200 runners and walkers on the shore of Lost Creek Lake.
Rosas, who kicked off an effort to organize the memorial-benefit run and walk, crossed the finish line of the renowned Boston race an hour before the two bombs detonated and was just 60 yards away from one of the blasts, he said.
"At his age, it was such a tragedy," Rosas said about the 8-year-old from Dorchester, Mass.
About $5,000 raised leading up to and during Sunday's effort will go directly to the Neighborhood House Charter School in Dorchester, where Richard went to school, Rosas said.
There is a request that the money be dedicated to purchasing new athletic or playground equipment, he said.
"I think this is an absolutely wonderful showing. When I asked this community for help ... I found it," Rosas said, to the crowd of supporters who gathered Sunday.
It restores your faith in humanity. What happened in Boston ... it shakes that foundation."
Ashland-based Rogue Valley Runners and Medford-based running groups Southern Oregon Runners and Southern Oregon Running Enthusiasts helped organize and sponsored the event, Rosas said.
Before the nearly 19-mile lake loop began, some of those who gathered read poems and released balloons during a moment of silence to honor the three people killed and more than 180 wounded in the bombings, and a Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus safety officer, who is believed to have been killed Thursday by the Boston bombing suspects.
Southern Oregon Running Enthusiasts founder Nate Olsen said he was impressed by how quickly so many different groups of runners came together to make Sunday's memorial-benefit successful. "This affects the whole community," said Christy Sinclair of Ashland, who walked during Sunday's memorial for Richard. "It's not just Boston, it's everyone."
Rosas, a Medford defense attorney with Southern Oregon Public Defenders and regular marathon runner, plans to attend next year's Boston Marathon. "Next year will be the best Boston Marathon in the history of the Boston Marathon," he said.
Quoting Martin Luther King Jr. before starting his run, Rosas said "darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
"Today I think we are spreading that message."