Thursday – October 23, 2014

 

MATC Graduate Helps Lead Effort to Comfort Boston Marathon Bombing Victims

May 2013

Breeanne Glavan-Johnson, who graduated in May 2013 from MATC's baking and pastry arts associate degree program, and her mother Trish were horrified and riveted while watching coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings. They were particularly moved when they heard about the Richard family, whose 8-year-old son Martin was killed in the bombings. Martin's mother sustained a brain injury, his father suffered from shrapnel wounds, and then 6-year-old sister Jane lost part of her leg.

As reports surfaced identifying Jane as a beginning Irish step dancer, Breeanne and Trish immediately felt a strong bond with the little girl. Breeanne began studying Irish dance at age six. She now teaches young dancers at Glencastle Irish Dancers, Inc., in West Allis several evenings a week. Breeanne and Trish are deeply involved in the Irish dance community, which Breeanne describes as "very close-knit." Two weeks before the bombings, Breeanne had attended the Irish Dance World Championships in Boston with her students, staying in a hotel a near the marathon finish line.

As Breeanne and Trish struggled to come to terms with the devastation of the bombings and their feelings of connection to Jane, an idea emerged. Trish suggested collecting shirts with logos from Irish dance companies which could then be made into a quilt for Jane. They contacted Bridget Jaskulski, owner and director of the Glencastle Irish Dancers, to get approval to use the name of the group as they collected the shirts. Then they started a Facebook page called "Wrapping Jane in Our Love," hoping to collect about 20 shirts.

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Breeanne Glavan-Johnson

Immediate International Response
Word spread quickly on Facebook. The response was immediate and spanned the globe. The first pledges of shirts came from Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Belgium, Germany, Ireland and England. Breeanne said she believes that the overseas Irish dance community probably saw the Facebook page before those in the U.S. due to the time difference. Shirts began to arrive very quickly and in such volume that the mail carrier started bringing large plastic bins filled with packages.

Successful beyond anything they imagined, Breeanne and Trish have collected more than 530 shirts, plus other Irish dance items that will be sent to Jane and her family to offer encouragement. Drew Lovejoy, the gold medal winner of the 2013 Irish Dance World Championship, is having an inscription added to his medal from this year's championship to give to Jane to wear as a necklace. Michael Flatley, internationally known Irish dancer and creator and director of "Lord of the Dance," and his cast sent signed T-shirts as well. Several dance groups also have sent cummerbunds, sashes, patches and other memorabilia, which will be framed for Jane.

Opening Packages Feels Like Christmas
"It feels like Christmas opening the packages that arrive every day," Breeanne said. Each night, she and her parents fold and arrange the shirts that arrive that day to look like a quilt and post the photos on their Facebook page. Because they have received so many more shirts than they expected, a quilt will be made for each member of Jane's family, with the shirts being sewn back-to-back to display more of the dance group logos.

 

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More than 530 T-shirts were donated for the project. The Post Office began delivering them in crates.

"Everyone keeps thanking us," said Breeanne. "But we're just the vehicle to get everything going. It's the schools that are sending the shirts that should be thanked. It speaks volumes about how much people care throughout the world."

A friend of Trish's from the Boston area is coordinating the sewing of the quilts with several of her friends. The quilts and other memorabilia will be given to Jane's dance group, the Clifden Academy, with instructions to share them with her when the time seems right. "We want to respect the family's privacy," said Breeanne. "But we hope they know that they are not alone in this. Jane is going to be loved by the dance world forever. I believe she will dance again someday. People can dance with prosthetic legs."

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Breeanne Glavan-Johnson (l) and her mother Trish Johnson developed the idea to collect Irish dance group T-shirts to make quilts for Jane Richard, a young Irish dancer who was severely injured during the Boston Marathon bombing, and her family.

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Glavan-Johnson (l) works with fondant with MATC baking and pastry arts instructor Gloria DeAngelo.

Breeanne and Trish flew to Boston to help finish the quilt project in late May, following Breeanne's MATC graduation.

After exploring a couple of academic areas at MATC, Breeanne discovered her "fit" when she enrolled in the baking and pastry arts program. "I'm really happy with this program. Our instructors have amazing backgrounds and experience that they impart to us." Her dream is to make fancy desserts in a restaurant.

Wherever Breeanne Glavan-Johnson's career leads, she'll take with her a rich background of unique experiences.

"We're just the vehicle to get everything going. It's the schools
that are sending the shirts that should be thanked. It speaks volumes about
how much people care throughout the world."
-Breeanne Glavan-Johnson 

 

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Pictured is the front of the first quilt as it was nearing completion.

 

Visit the Facebook page: Wrapping Jane in Our Love