Here at FourBlock, we are most concerned with the legacy veterans leave behind in their communities and workplaces. But from time to time, we cross paths with the uncommon friend whose legacy shines just as bright, if not brighter, than even what many veterans have achieved. Victoria McGrath was such a person.

Remembering Victoria

This iconic photo symbolized the Boston Marathon bombing throughout the world.
This iconic photo symbolized the Boston Marathon bombing throughout the world.

A student at Northeastern University in Boston, MA, Victoria had an experience just as traumatic and victorious as today’s Post-9/11 military veteran. Three years ago, on April 15, 2013, she was standing just five feet away from where the first bomb exploded, near the Boston Marathon finish line. Following the blast, four strangers, including U.S. Army veteran Bruce Mendelsohn and Boston firefighter Jimmy Plourde, came to tend to her wounds. As Plourde carried her to seek urgent medical treatment, Victoria became an iconic symbol of the tragic day, as a photo of Plourde carrying her to seek urgent medical attention went viral around the world. Victoria suffered nerve damage to her left leg due to the multiple pieces of shrapnel that had entered her. She spent several weeks recovering at Tufts Medical Center.

However despite her own harrowing experience and admirable recovery, Victoria did not care much that she had become an inspiring symbol of hope and survival after the bombing. Instead, she sought to give back to her own inspiration: veterans. Her compassion had already shown itself in working with underprivileged children and children with disabilities. Now she wanted to help ensure veterans transitioned well, from military life into civilian careers.

Victoria, far left, at the Goldman Sachs veterans event in December 2015.
Victoria, far left, at the Goldman Sachs veterans event in December 2015.

Most recently, through her position as a Goldman Sachs Co-Op, Victoria helped organize a FourBlock holiday charity event from start to finish, at Goldman Sach’s Boston office. And yet, through it all, the level of empathy never left her. Instead of telling FourBlock what she could offer, Victoria carefully reviewed what veterans needed and how she could help those specific needs. Her thoughtful work touched everything from hosting mock interview workshops to launching a clothing drive at Goldman Sachs to collect business attire for Boston veterans.

“Over the past three years, I have come to realize that I very much enjoy working with military veterans and getting involved with projects that allow others around me to get exposure to some of the serious issues veterans face upon returning to civilian life. I want our men and women to get the help they need. Helping FourBlock with projects from start to finish has been inspiring and I aspire to do much more. My hope is that anyone seeing my involvement would also get involved in veteran issues,” she once told us.

Victoria’s Legacy

Today, FourBlock announces it is establishing the Victoria McGrath Volunteer of the Year Award, in remembrance of Victoria’s heart of giving.

“Victoria represents the best of volunteerism in the veteran community. Despite her own bravery and unique journey, she cared deeply about the well being of today’s veterans and gave much during her lifetime to help them successfully transition into civilian life. The Victoria McGrath Volunteer of the Year Award will honor Victoria’s legacy and encourage others to follow her example,” said Mike Abrams, founder and President of FourBlock. The first recipient of the Victoria McGrath Volunteer of the Year Award will be announced later in the year.

FourBlock seeks to inspire a new generation of veterans to transition well and those very same veterans, as well as the FourBlock team, have been inspired by Victoria and her rare values of determination, humility, kindness, and empathy. “What Victoria taught all of us was how, against the odds, to respond with determination, humility, and not a single note of bitterness,” stated her parents, Jill and Jim McGrath. “In a society that is abundant in support for troops but often lacks true understanding, Victoria’s voice was one that contained rare empathy, which comforted and motivated many people.”

Through the Victoria McGrath Volunteer of the Year Award, and our continued veteran transition programs, the FourBlock community will be faithful to her legacy and ensure Victoria’s work continues.

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The below is from the McGrath family statement:

Let us gather our grief and understand what it truly is — a transmutation of our love for Victoria — and let that understanding motivate us to be constructive as we eventually emerge from this tragedy.

With that in mind, as an expression of our feelings for Victoria, we invite you to carry on the work she loved and to donate to Four Block, a non-profit organization that helps transitioning veterans. Donations made to Four Block in remembrance of Victoria will go directly toward building career readiness programs for returning Veterans in Boston, specifically to aid veterans transitioning into civilian jobs.

Donations can be made directly on the website fourblock.org. After submitting the donation on the website, there is a space available to designate the donation in remembrance of Victoria.

Victoria’s work continues. Thank you.

— Jill and Jim McGrath

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