The Tragic Story Behind the Smith Family Foundation’s New Boston Park Grant

In the past, we’ve touched on the Richard & Susan Smith Family Foundation’s support for health centers and charter schools. But lately, parks and green spaces are emerging as big causes for this Boston-focused funder.

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The foundation recently pledged $3 million for a park and playground, which will be built near the Boston Children’s Museum. But what’s interesting about this big grant is who inspired it. An eight-year-old boy named Martin Richard was killed in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, and his family created a foundation in his name to raise money for the park project. He was the youngest victim of the bombing, and shortly after his death, a photo of him holding a handmade sign that read “No more hurting people. Peace” was shared over the Internet, which made Martin into a symbol of peace to many people.

Lynne Doblin, executive director of the Smith Family Foundation, said, “It’s just a key location. The thought there was it requires a very, very special kind of park to bring people together from across the city and across the region.”

The Martin Richard Foundation expects to hold a groundbreaking ceremony this fall and complete the project in 2017. Martin’s Park will be located at the Smith Family Waterfront along Fort Point Channel, which is now an underutilized public space. According to a press release, other support is coming from P&G Gillette, Fidelity Investments, Mayo Capital Partners LLC, John Hancock Financial, Highland Street Foundation, the Connors Family Foundation, Sherry and Allan Leventhal Foundation, and the Martin W. Richard Charitable Foundation.

Although this is perhaps the most emotionally charged one, this isn’t the only parks and green space commitment that the Smith Family Foundation has made lately. For one, the funder provided the money for the waterfront plaza where the Hood Milk Bottle is right now. Earlier this spring, the foundation awarded the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy a grant to bring Janet Echelman’s aerial sculptures to the greenway.

A press release from the foundation said, “When the Greenway Conservancy shared images of her previous installations from around the world with the Smith Family Foundation, trustees were instantly drawn to the idea of bringing a project of such high caliber to Boston, our home city as well as the artist’s.”

Of note, this Boston Parks & Recreation Department and the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy grants came from the Smith Family Foundation’s Mid-Sized Capital Grants Program. This funder likes to support high-impact capital projects in Greater Boston, and lately, many of those capital projects are based in outdoor urban environments.

These grants are for transformational capital projects that cost between $250,000 and $3 million and that can point to significant accomplishments and missions. However, this is not a general support opportunity for multi-million dollar campaigns. Instead, it's for discrete projects that liven up public spaces, improve neighborhoods, and enhance exposure to public art and quality of life.

To be eligible for these grants, your agency must serve the people of Greater Boston or the cities of Chelsea, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, Brockton, Fall River or New Bedford. And the new deadline for applying for these grants is July 1. Check out the list of previous mid-sized capital grantees for examples of past support, or reach out to the staff by email at info@smithfamilyfoundation.net if you believe you have a capital project that would be of interest.