SALEM — The Martin Richard Foundation has teamed up with the nonprofit Sailing Heals to provide boxed meals to the overnight shift of 350 health care workers treating COVID-19 patients at Salem Hospital.
The effort, which will occur Wednesday night, coincides with One Boston Day and the 7th anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing.
The initiative, called Sailing Heals Meals, aims to not only feed health care workers during the pandemic, but also help local nonprofits whose funding has dried up, and restaurants whose business has been decimated by having to close to diners to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The meals are being prepared by the new commercial kitchen and culinary learning school Salem Gnu Kitchen at 62 Wharf St.
Bill Richard, co-founder of the Martin Richard Foundation and a Salem native, said the goal is to continue the effort beyond One Boston Day during the COVID-19 crisis, to encourage other donors in the effort and to expand the mission to other restaurants, all while providing support to front line health care workers.
The foundation has provided a grant to Sailing Heals, which was established in Marblehead in 2011, to launch the meals program.
“When this crisis began,” said Bill Richard, “like everyone we’ve been trying to figure out what our role might be to help people.”
The foundation watched to see how the crisis was developing, he explained, “and it became crystal clear to us that the folks that needed our help (are) some of the people that we have been supporting since we started the foundation, right? Our nonprofit partners who were forced to cancel their fundraisers which for many of them is their...lifeline to fund their programs.”
The foundation is continuing to support its nonprofit partners, Richard said, but there are other needs in the community.
“How can we support the restaurants who are such an important part of the community’s fabric, right? And certainly the health care workers who are helping us,” he said.
Sailing Heals takes patients and their caregivers out to sea for a day on the water to help them forget about their struggles for a time.
In 2016, the Richard family took part in a Sailing Heals Pirate and Princesses Treasure Hunt Adventure, and Bill Richard serves on group’s board of directors. Amid the pandemic, Sailing Heals had to cancel its spring fundraiser, and it can’t take people out on the water with the need to keep folks apart to keep them safe.
“We are proud to support our caregivers; whether on the water or through this effort, the work continues,” said Bradford resident Trisha Gallagher Boisvert, Sailing Heals’ executive director, in a statement.
The Martin Richard Foundation was co-founded in 2014 by Bill and Denise Richard, of Dorchester, in memory of their 8-year-old son, Martin, who was one of three spectators killed on Boylston Street during the bombing on April 15, 2013, which also injured hundreds of others. The Richards’ daughter Jane, who is now 14, had to have one of her legs amputated, while the couple’s oldest son, Henry, now 18 and a senior in high school, somehow managed to escape injury.
A photograph of Martin holding a sign he drew that read: “No more hurting people. Peace,” was the basis for the foundation’s mission to invest in community programs for young people.
“We certainly have a deep personal connection and have this unmet level of gratitude to first responders and health-care workers and we will continue to do everything we can to support their efforts,” said Bill Richard.