Saturday was a special day at Gillette Stadium, as kids from every corner of Massachusetts came together to give back.
The day of service and celebration was part of Project 351, an initiative former governor Deval Patrick launched in 2011. Every year, through the program, one eighth grade student from each of Massachusetts' 351 cities and towns becomes a community ambassador. The group gets together in January for a day of volunteering and, for the past three years, they have also held a spring reunion at Gillette Stadium.
A group of 450 current and past Project 351 participants was joined by Robert and Josh Kraft, who have supported the program since its inception. Governor Charlie Baker, Dean of City Year and Project 351's Honarary Dean Charlie Rose, Patriots alumni, and tight end Tim Wright also took part in the reunion.
Tim spoke to the kids about his experiences giving back through both the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation's Celebrate Volunteerism initiative and his own foundation, The Wright Way Academy, which he launched last month.
Another of the day's highlights was a heartfelt speech by Bill Richard, father of Boston Marathon bombing victim Martin Richard. The Martin W. Richard Charitable Foundation and Project 351 have partnered to spread Martin's message of peace, kindness and teamwork. The children who participated in Saturday's reunion raised more than $14,400 for the foundation and also took part in a unity walk in honor of Martin.
The effort to give back didn't end there though. The children and adults also worked together to pack 26,000 meals for Massachusetts food banks and 1,000 learning kits for Boston-area summer camps.
And while it wasn't the first Project 351 reunion, Saturday's event did include an important first; the inaugural $20,000 Myra Kraft Scholarship was awarded to* *Westford's Danny Donnelly, who was part of the 2011 Project 351 class and is now a graduating high school senior. Robert and Jonathan Kraft announced the scholarship in January, while Josh Kraft and Carolyn Casey, executive director of Project 351, were responsible for reading applications and selecting the recipient.
Students who participate in Project 351 are nominated by their teachers and principals. For more information about the program, see www.project351.com.
The two were joined by Patriots alumni and Governor Charlie Baker as the youth community service initiative Project 351 held its annual reunion at Gillette Stadium.