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FRONTLINE: Doing Good

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Walking Tall

Four months before G. Fred DiBona Jr. died following a courageous battle with cancer, he defied doctors’ orders and left his hospital bed to visit a friend’s daughter who wasn’t doing well after leukemia treatments. The president and CEO of Philadelphia’s Independence Blue Cross and a civic kingpin for more than three decades, DiBona sat by her bed and coaxed her into fighting for her life. She listened—and soon went into remission. “We heard so many stories after he died about how he helped lots of people,” says Christine DiBona Lobley, DiBona’s daughter.

Lobley is now executive director of Fred’s Footsteps, the Villanova-based G. Fred DiBona Jr. Memorial Foundation, whose mission is to bring hope to families with sick children, helping them continue putting one foot in front of the other. Formed in February 2005, a month after DiBona passed away at 53, the foundation provides direct financial support to families in financial crisis due to the care of a critically or chronically ill child. Social workers from area hospitals and clinics refer families to the organization. A grant advisory committee then reviews applications, chooses families and assesses their needs. Thus far, 32 families have benefited. “[My dad] took an interest in working one-on-one with people,” Lobley says. “That’s why the foundation takes such a personable approach.”

The foundation—which also includes DiBona’s son, Fred, a member of a board that’s chaired by his mother, Sylvia DiBona—focuses on the entire family, including affected siblings. For more information, call (610) 850-3290 or visit fredsfootsteps.org.

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