Starbucks Saves a Place for Victim of Boston Marathon Bombing

The first time Heather Abbott returned to the Boston Marathon after the bombing that took her left leg from the knee down, she ran the last half-mile on a prosthetic leg. One year later, she relaxed and watched the finishers from a Starbucks store. Today (April 18), she’s giving up a prime viewing spot to benefit others who face the same challenges she has.

Abbott was continuing a tradition of watching the final stretch of the world’s oldest annual marathon from Boylston Street on April 15, 2013, when two bombs went off within 12 seconds.

The attack took three lives and injured more than 260 people, including the 38-year-old Newport, Rhode Island, resident. Carried to safety by former New England Patriots player Matt Chatham and his wife, Erin, Abbott allowed doctors to amputate her left leg below the knee after multiple surgeries.

A year ago, Gaiya Miller, who was manager of the Starbucks one block from the finish line and midway between where the two bombs exploded, happened to catch the tail end of a TV news report about Abbott, who’d responded to the trauma she’d experienced by learning to live with a prosthetic leg and becoming a certified peer counselor through the American Amputee Coalition. The Heather Abbott Foundation, which she founded, raises funds to purchase customized prostheses for others who’ve suffered limb loss through traumatic circumstances.

‘We feel connected to the marathon’

As Miller listened to Abbott talk about the goals of her charity, she had a flash of inspiration. Soon Miller was on the phone with Abbott working out details for a marathon viewing party for foundation supporters. The patio was set aside for Abbott and her guests, who were served food and unlimited drinks prepared by dedicated barista, and then sent on their way with gift bags.

For this year’s Boston Marathon, Starbucks again reached out to Abbott.

“We really wanted to use the patio space again for good,” said Adam Modzel, Starbucks district manager. “We liked the partnership with Heather and believe in her foundation. It’s got great ties to the community here in Boston and to the marathon itself. We feel connected to the marathon in this district and particularly at that store, because we’re right on the finish line.”

The Boylston Starbucks and others in the area will also be collecting athletic apparel and gear through Marathon Monday for Dream Big, a Boston nonprofit that supports under-privileged girls.

This year, patio seating (and VIP treatment) was raffled off as a fundraiser for the Heather Abbott Foundation. Abbott will be enjoying the marathon nearby, as she has for years.

“I went to the marathon each year before I was hurt,” she said. “It was always a fun day that I looked forward to. It continues to be a good day. I’m always surrounded by the people who were around me the day I was hurt. I’ve created some really good memories by running myself and having my fundraiser by the finish line. I have a lot to look forward to, so I don’t cringe when I think about going back there.”

Boston Strong Community Service

Alongside the Heather Abbott Foundation and Dream Big, other Boston-area organizations are benefitting from the contributions of Starbucks partners (employees) this month, which is the company’s Global Month of Service. Throughout April, partners lead service projects and invite their fellow partners, customers and community members to volunteer with them. Starbucks is teaming up with YouthBuild Boston and the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative on April 30 for career coaching workshops and neighborhood restoration projects.

The workshops will focus on career counseling and interview practice for YouthBuild Boston students and local residents. Students in partnership with Starbucks partners and customers will also use their training in construction to complete housing and park projects.

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What’s inside a more accessible and inclusive Starbucks store?