Fifteen years ago today, my dad died at just 53 years old after a courageous battle with cancer. I was 23 at the time and, looking back, I don’t think I truly could appreciate just how short his life had been cut.
As the years have passed, while the gut-wrenching grief is not as consistently present as it was in the beginning, there are many moments that sneak up on me and take my breath away—mostly when I think about what he is missing.
Sometimes it’s the big moments: the birth of his four grandchildren, a milestone birthday, or even a big event in this city he loved so dearly (The Eagles winning the Superbowl in 2018 is the first that comes to mind!). But mostly, it’s the smaller things that I know he would have truly relished: a beautiful beach day, a perfectly crafted sandwich, or watching one of his grandchildren joyfully play outside. Those “ordinary” moments are what he would have cherished most because he truly understood how quickly those could be taken away.
I reflect on that often when I think about the work we do at Fred’s Footsteps. When my family started this organization, we knew that for all the things we wished we could have back, the one thing we could keep alive was his passion for helping those whose lives have been changed in an instant. Now, 15 years after his passing, I’m in awe of how much we have achieved in his name.
Fred’s Footsteps has provided over $6M to families in our local community. These are families whose lives changed in a moment by a diagnosis, an injury, a tragic accident. Moments of joy in their lives become fewer as they worry about the only thing that matters: making their child better. And they sacrifice everything in that pursuit, stretching themselves thin both emotionally and financially.
In 2019, we invested more money in the community than any previous year in our history—more mortgages and rent payments for families who could lose their home because of a devastating diagnosis; more van and home modifications for families struggling to care for their child in their home. And the payoff? More relief; more hope, more moments of joy and happiness.
People often ask me what I think would be my dad’s favorite part about what we are doing to honor his name. Without a doubt, I can say it’s the children and their families. He would have loved to sit down over a meal with them and just talk. Learn about their children and what they are going through. Listen to what they need; and, then figure out how he could help.
My eyes fill up with tears just thinking that this is one more thing he doesn’t get to do; but, I feel so much comfort and pride that we can do it in his memory. And, we will continue to do this, in his honor, for the next 15 years and beyond.
~ Christine DiBona Lobley
Executive Director, Fred’s Footsteps