Wheaton-Boston Strong vigil responds to Marathon bombings

The mood was somber as Wheaton students gathered in the sun-filled Dimple last Wednesday to show their support for those affected by the recent Boston Marathon bombings.

The Wheaton/Boston Strong vigil, organized by the Office of Service, Spirituality and Social Responsibility, was one of many opportunities for students, faculty and staff to make a contribution to SSSR’s ongoing outreach efforts in the aftermath of the bombings, which occurred at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Mon., Apr. 15.

Just after 4:30 p.m., Dean Vereene Parnell gathered students in a circle in the Dimple and presented a small bouquet of yellow roses — Boston colors — to pass around the circle. The person holding the flowers could say anything on their mind about the tragedies – an opportunity, said Parnell, for reflection and comments.

The catharsis came in different ways; some individuals were more closely affected than others by the bombings, but for many students from the Boston area, the marathon and the events following it took place directly on childhood stomping grounds.

“I am from Medford, I grew up in Somerville and I spent two summers working at [the Massachusetts Institute of Technology],” said Sam Bolt ’13, as she received the flowers in the circle. “My boyfriend is a Cambridge cop. This one hit very close to home and I couldn’t be more thankful for all the support from [everyone at Wheaton].”

After the flowers had made their way around the circle, several members of Voices United To Jam (VUJ) performed a hopeful cover of gospel duo Mary Mary’s “Can’t Give Up Now.”

“The Boston vigil is the kind of event VUJ’s gospel sound is meant for,” said co-president Charlotte Kinder ’13. “It is meant to inspire peace, hope and reassurance in its audience. ‘Can’t Give Up Now’ is a song about trusting in God and leaning on Him in times of great difficulty and darkness [and] it was an honor to carry this light into the ceremony through music.”

Dean Parnell said that in the aftermath of the tragedy she immediately began thinking of ways in which the Wheaton community could respond but the timing was difficult due to the overwhelming responses from different groups on campus.

“One of the wonderful things about Wheaton [is that] if you like to coordinate or collaborate . . . people just do,” said Parnell. “They don’t sit around and fret about it a lot, [so] lots of times there are multiple responses [to certain events], because we are a small but very diverse community,” she added.

However, SSSR has managed to organize a number of events, including setting up a table before the vigil at which people could write messages of support. Over fifty people came to the table, according to Samantha Barnett ’16, a student worker in SSSR.

By the time this issue is released, most of the collaborative events will have passed; however, SSSR had tables present Friday at the Farmers Market and collaborated on Sunday with the John Mitchell Memorial 5K, a race held in honor of a former Wheaton staff member who passed away in 2011. The Wheaton-Boston Strong banner was available at both events for students and others to add their signatures to.

At the race on Sunday, runners were encouraged to wear Boston Marathon colors (blue and yellow), and Troy Henderson ’13 and DJs of Boston were scheduled to DJ the event. Additionally, SSSR set up a table with baked goods and requests for donations.

Laurie Millener ’13, who helped to coordinate these efforts, pointed out the incredible supportiveness of the entire Wheaton community.

“I think the vigil is representative of what the Wheaton community stands for,” she said, referencing the excellent turnout from students, staff and faculty. Millener added that a successful Wheaton effort has been launched to fundraise and provide support for The One Fund, a fund created by Boston Mayor Tom Menino and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to support those affected by the bombings.

For more information on how to contribute or volunteer, contact Laurie Millener ’13 or SSSR at or

The yellow roses passed around at the vigil on Wednesday will remain on display in the Chapel Basement.