They were strangers a year ago but today they are family. This is what happens often times when people share a traumatic experience. It’s especially true for the survivors of the Boston Marathon bombings; they have comforted each other from their hospital beds, watched and cheered one another as they took their first steps in recovery and have leaned on each other when some days are especially harder than others. All share a unique bond forged by both pain and hope. This bond became stronger and eternally unbreakable in December 2013 when many were given an incredible gift from Regan Communications client Vantage Deluxe World Travel, a Boston based company whose charitable mission is to bring light and joy to the lives of local heroes who have given much of themselves for others.
Vantage invited more than a hundred Marathon survivors on an all expense paid vacation cruise through the south of France; it was a gift many thought too good to be true. What company would spend more than $400 thousand on a gift like this? Vantage was simply doing this to help a dear friend. Carlos Arrendondo, one of the most celebrated heroes from the Marathon tragedy, had sailed on a previous cruise in 2012 dedicated to wounded and fallen American soldiers and their families. Carlos’ engaging smile and willingness to help others had won over everyone on board and he had become a Vantage friend for life. When Vantage staff members saw Carlos on television after the bombings, they knew they had to do something to help their friend and others like him. For Vantage, the idea was simple to conceive but it took months of planning and hard work from a group of dedicated staff members to pull off – but they did.
On December 11, 2013, 114 survivors including Carlos and Jeff Bauman; who lost both legs in the attack gathered at Logan Airport ready to embark on a trip of a lifetime. They landed in Paris, France the next day and were driven to the quaint city of Macon where the Vantage vessel ms River Discovery II awaited them. The Vantage crew met each passenger with a smile and offer of helpful assistance before sitting them down for a five star French dinner of Cuisse de Canard ala Orange avec Pomme Duchesse a Chou Rouge complete with both red and white wine made of grapes from the surrounding Burgundy countryside. When Shakespeare wrote reverentially about the vines of France and the milk of Burgundy, he was thinking about Macon and other ports of call these special guests would would be enjoying the Rhone River.
Over the next several days, Marathon survivors got to see the rolling vineyards of the region, the historic Cluny Abby, where the Prayer for the Dead had originated in the 900’s and the majestic splendor of Lyon where all were surprised to find several signs of home including an actual Boston sports bar. “We love Boston,” one Lyon resident explained over a glass of beer. “We were very sad to hear about the bombing but very proud to see how so many of the survivors had persevered.”
They have persevered and have found strength in each other. The luxury cruise through the south of France has allowed for quiet reflection, moments of pure levity and fun and also time to share their experiences with one another in a relaxed atmosphere not found back in Boston. These are memories that each Marathon survivor will carry for a lifetime. To learn more about Vantage Deluxe World Travel, please call (888) 514-1851.
-Casey Sherman, president of Regan Marketing