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Marathon daffodils line route for next year’s race

Brenda and Taylor MacHarrie from Arlington plant daffodils to commemorate the Boston Marathon bombing victims Saturday morning in Kenmore Square. PHOTO BY LAURA VERKYK/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Brenda and Taylor MacHarrie from Arlington plant daffodils to commemorate the Boston Marathon bombing victims Saturday morning in Kenmore Square. PHOTO BY LAURA VERKYK/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Seven months after the Boston Marathon bombings, about 200 people came to Kenmore Square Saturday to complete the project of planting more than 100,000 daffodils along the marathon route to remind community members that the marathon is still a joyous and celebratory event in Boston.

On April 15, the day of the bombings, Diane Valle and Kathy Thomas were in the North End at the Daffodil Festival. They said this inspired the two co-organizers to create the group Marathon Daffodils and to plant daffodil bulbs from Hopkinton to Boston, along the entire 26.2-mile marathon route, with the expectation that they will sprout in time for the next marathon on April 21, 2014.

“To date we have raised almost $24,000 and have plans to expand the program if we exceed our goal,” Thomas said. “Although this project has taken all my waking hours, I will say that it may in fact be my greatest volunteer accomplishment. Now the bulbs are in the hands of Mother Nature, let’s hope she steps up to the plate and makes this project shine on that Monday in April.”

Thomas said they teamed up with nonprofits, gardening clubs, businesses and other volunteers to reach their ultimate goal of $26,000, enough to allocate approximately $1,000 to each mile on the route.

Barbara Thorp, director of support services at the One Fund, an organization formed to assist the victims and families affected by the bombings, said bringing cheer back to next year’s marathon is valuable, so future marathons can be about moving forward rather than remorse.

“The beauty of those yellow flowers streaming along the marathon route will be a source of great hope and a sign of new life for our community,” she said. “The sheer goodness and generosity of the people, the outpouring of support, and the effort that they will put in to show such a sign of solidarity is amazing. Just the sheer beauty of what these daffodils will represent as a contrast to the terrible harm and terrible pain that was inflicted by the bombings is wonderful.”

John Guilfoil, spokesman for Boston Mayor Thomas Menino’s office, said the administration is impressed by the unprecedented love and support that everyone in the city has shown since April.

“Boston is strong and we have been made stronger by the outpouring of support people have shown since April 15,” he said. “The mayor is positively overwhelmed by the wonderful gestures people have put forward since the attacks, and this latest gesture is no different.”

At about 9 a.m. on Saturday, hundreds of volunteers gathered in Kenmore Square to plant the last daffodil bulbs of the marathon route.

Cathy Felton, 61, a member of the American Daffodil Society, said she had planted the flowers three other times along the route.

“People from all walks of life are helping to create something good out of what happened … grandchildren, doctors, all sorts of people coming out to help,” she said. “When the snow melts, these flowers will bloom, maybe just around the time of next year’s marathon, and it will really show how far the city has come in a year.”

Mary Felton, 35, of Somerville, said she enjoyed participating in Marathon Daffodils so much that she brought her daughter along with her to Kenmore Square.

“I think these daffodils are really symbolic of beauty and what Boston is, versus the ugly and evil things that sometimes creep up,” she said.

Lee Araft, 64, a past marathon runner, said he felt disappointed that the Boston Marathon bombings have ruined the joy surrounding the marathon.

“I ran the Boston Marathon once, and I know how exhilarating it is to be a part of it, [and] to be a part of this city,” he said. “Unfortunately now, there are a lot of other emotions surrounding the marathon, but I think this is a really nice idea, [and] a nice way to bring cheer back to the marathon.”

Erin Demaura, 31, of Brighton, said she wanted to do something after the bombings and planting the daffodils was the perfect opportunity for her to get involved.

“We’re creating a display for next year’s runners, which I think is very powerful,” she said. “I’m very happy to be out here supporting my community.”

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