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Child’s message of peace has Halifax reaching out to Boston brethren

A long-standing bond between Halifax and Boston is behind a social-media campaign by a group of Haligonians to help the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.

And the simple words of eight-year-old Martin Richard, who, along with two others, was killed in the April 15 attack, is providing the message. "No more hurting people … peace," Martin wrote on a sign he made for a school project a year before the bombings. He drew a red heart beside the word peace.

That was the "common thread," said Matt Brannon, a 33-year-old software executive and one of the members of the group, about how their campaign came together. "It was the trigger point for us … that's what we used as our inspiration."

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On Tuesday, the group is launching a 90-second YouTube video, featuring Martin's words, and enlisting a few hundred of their Facebook friends and Twitter followers to tweet the link to the video with the hashtag #nomorehurting.

Mr. Brannon and Jeremy Cormier, a 31-year-old graphic designer, came up with the idea. They wanted to do something – and felt that Halifax and Nova Scotia's response to the tragedy were not enough.

"We thought for the history of our cities it wasn't a very remarkable contribution," Mr. Brannon said, noting that the province donated $50,000 to a children's hospital and the city sent a letter of condolence.

"I just feel that the relationship between the cities goes a lot deeper than that," he said. He was referring to the immediate response by Bostonians, who sent a train full of relief supplies in the wake of the 1917 Halifax Explosion.

Every year since then, Halifax has sent a Christmas tree to Boston to honour the city's generosity.

Mr. Brannon has a personal tie to the event: his ancestor, Horatio Brannen (who spelled his name differently) was the captain of the tugboat that tried to get to the burning Mont Blanc, the French cargo ship that was full of explosives, and tow it away to a safer place. He died when the ship exploded. About 2,000 people were killed and 9,000 injured, while the north end of the city was devastated.

The bonds extend to the sports world as well: Many Haligonians are Boston Bruins and Red Sox fans. After the Sox won the World Series in 2007, the trophy came north to Halifax and was on display in Province House in recognition of the city's die-hard fans.

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So it wasn't a stretch to find others to advance their idea. In a short time, Mr. Brannon and Mr. Cormier had the help of filmmaker Andrew MacCormack and producer Julian Marentette. Melodie Joy, who works with Mr. Brannon, also got involved. Together, they created the video in less than two weeks, contacting friends through Facebook and e-mail. About 30 people came out to the one-day video shoot.

"In 2012 the world's countries spent $1.7-trillion on their militaries all in the name of peacekeeping," the video begins. A number of different people repeat the message: "In 2012, eight-year-old Martin Richard spent a few hours working on a school project also in the name of peace." Martin, they explain, was killed in the bombings and "cannot continue his message of hope. But we can, because it's never too late to start saying, 'No more hurting people.' "

Tied to the video is the sale of T-shirts, inspired by the picture of Martin with his toothy grin and freckled face holding up his sign, which has become one of the haunting, iconic images of the tragedy.

His exact script, including the heart that he drew beside the word "peace," has been transferred to the T-shirts. The people in the video are wearing the shirts, designed by Mr. Cormier.

The group hopes to raise at least $25,000 by selling 1,000 shirts. Their site has been set up to take donations. All of the money, except for the $4 cost of the T-shirts, will be divided between the One Fund Boston charity – which was set up to help the victims and families – and the Richard family. Martin's mother and sister were gravely injured. The Haligonians have sent a letter to the family explaining their campaign.

"It was amazing," Mr. Brannon said of how the effort came together.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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