They Have Been Giving To Strangers Ever Since.

January 19, 1999

They had met as first graders at Holy Cross School and continued their friendship through graduation from Cardinal O'Hara High School, followed by college, marriage and beyond. Then, in October 1995, something unexpected brought them together in a new way: Alfred Patrone was diagnosed as having cancer.

Families In Need Benefit From 12 Childhood Friends' Bond When Cancer Hit One, The Others Raised Money.
They Have Been Giving To Strangers - Ever Since.

This article was originally written by Gloria A. Hoffner, INQUIRER SUBURBAN STAFF and still appears on

SPRINGFIELD — When Alfred Patrone introduced his wife, Sharon, to the friends with whom he had grown up here, he called them by their nickname, "the Twelve Apostles.''

"They were all sitting in my home watching the Super Bowl when Bob [Carroll, a member of the group] came up with the idea of organizing a beef-and-beer benefit to help with my husband's medical bills,'' said Sharon Patrone, who grew up in South Philadelphia.

"My husband was overwhelmed. He could not believe they would do this for him. After it was over, he said, `These guys can do wonderful things together.'''

"And they have.''

Alfred Patrone died at age 38 a few months after the fund-raising event, called Friends for Friends, but his death and their response to it changed the lives of his old classmates forever, Carroll said.

Out of the one-night event, Friends for Friends has become an ongoing charity that has raised more than $50,000 and distributed $47,500 to 47 families in need, he said.

"The night of the fund-raiser, Alfred said a man asked him if Friends for Friends was an organization. He answered that it was just his friends,'' Carroll said.

"In the hospital, right before he died, he asked us to keep it going as a way to help others.''

Sharon Patrone said her husband had opened a business called the Foot Stop, with three stores in Delaware County and Philadelphia, and was making plans for franchises when he learned he had cancer.

As a businessman, she said, he always helped others in need, even with tuition help for some of his workers.

A man of faith, Sharon Patrone said, her husband read the Bible daily and lived for his family, three daughters, Gia and Tara, twins now 8 years old, and Breana, 10.

"When he learned he had cancer, he never lost his faith in God and never got angry. He saw me crying one day at the [University of Pennsylvania] hospital and said, "Don't cry for me. Look across the street and cry for those kids with cancer in Children's Hospital [of Philadelphia],'' Sharon Patrone said.

"He went knowing how much everybody loved him. . . . If he were here, he would be helping them [Friends for Friends].''