FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Just five months after the lives of hundreds of innocent bystanders changed forever, 11 of the Boston Marathon bombing survivors made their way onto the Gillette Stadium field prior to Thursday's Patriots-Jets game to a rousing standing ovation.
That inspirational moment was part of a touching tribute by the Kraft family and Patriots organization to honor all those who define "Boston Strong." Prior to kickoff, the 11 survivors, including 27-year-old double amputee Jeff Bauman, emerged from the player tunnel wearing customized Patriots jerseys. Accompanying each of them were wounded military veterans from the nonprofit organization, Operation Warrior Wishes, who have overcome similar injuries while serving our country.
The honored guests lined the Patriots sideline for player introductions before holding a moment of silence for those who lost their lives during the bombings last April - Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell and Lingzi Lu.
Following the National Anthem, the survivors and veterans watched the game's first two series from the field before making their way to club seats provided by the Kraft family.
Earlier in the day, Pat Patriot and the New England Patriots Cheerleaders visited the survivors and wounded warriors at a Boston hotel before everyone arrived in Foxborough to attend the Patriots VIP Tailgate Party inside the Dana Farber Field House for complimentary food and drinks.
More Than $1 Million Raised for The One Fund
The New England Patriots announced prior to Thursday's game that its charitable foundation has raised more than $1 million for The One Fund Boston. After presenting a check for $617,000 to The One Fund within days of the marathon bombing last April, the Kraft family and Patriots Charitable Foundation has hosted and contributed to many other fundraising efforts to eclipse $1 million raised for the marathon survivors.
Million Dollar Mission
The Kraft family welcomed Operation Warrior Wishes to Gillette Stadium Thursday as part of the nonprofit organization's "Million Dollar Mission" to visit all 32 NFL stadiums in 17 weeks to raise awareness and $1 million for various wounded veteran organizations and charities. The nonprofit organization, founded by Matt Steichen and his father, Craig, announced on their website that half of all donations collected this week will be given to The One Fund Boston.
"Thanks to the help from Robert and Jonathan Kraft and their entire organization," said Matt Steichen prior to Operation Warrior Wishes' visit to Gillette Stadium Thursday. "This is truly going to help us on our mission. We hope we can inspire people to donate." For more information, visit www.operationwarriorwishes.org.