The circle of giving

Stephanie Dabecco and her husband, Joe, spent most of their lives carefully saving and investing their money so they could have the pleasure of sharing it later with those in need.

“Neither one of us ever made a lot of money,” said Stephanie. “But we always lived very frugally, and we made good investments with the money we saved.” Stephanie worked for over 20 years as a reservation agent with a major airline, and Joe spent most of his career working in the maintenance department of the Pittsburgh School District.

St. Jude was always a favorite charity for Joe and Stephanie, who were married in 1961, one year before the hospital opened. She remembers them learning that Danny Thomas was building a hospital for sick children in Memphis, Tennessee. “We didn’t have much money at the time,” Stephanie said. “But later on I always thought St. Jude would be a cause we would like to help.”

For many years, Stephanie and Joe gave small gifts to the hospital and then later increased their giving. “We decided that instead of giving $25 twice a year to a lot of charities,” said Stephanie, “we need to give more to a smaller number of charities. People need a reason to get up in the morning, and we felt that this was a very good thing to do.”

When it was time to get their affairs in order they decided to make the ultimate gift by leaving St. Jude in their will. They provided for their daughter, Nicole, and Stephanie’s two younger sisters and younger brother, along with some of their favorite charities. “St. Jude will get a certain percentage, after our family members,” stated Stephanie. “We just loved the idea. The research is so important, and no parent should have to worry if they can afford their child’s treatment. I just feel so good knowing that I am helping to make all this happen.”

The couple had planned to visit St. Jude for the hospital’s 50th anniversary celebration in 2012, but Joe became ill and died from pancreatic cancer before they could make the trip. One year later, Stephanie and Nicole traveled to Memphis. “I bought a brick on the Pathway to Hope in Joe’s memory,” said Stephanie. “We drove down from Pittsburgh so we could be there on his birthday and see his brick. We felt like he was there with us.”

Visiting the hospital brought everything full circle for Stephanie. “The fact that St. Jude shares their research, and seeing the children, the doctors and the cafeteria, it was such a bright, happy atmosphere,” said Stephanie. “It’s like a circle. We are giving a gift, but we are also receiving a gift by knowing how we are giving these children hope.”

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