Patti Hoban Simpson has been on the receiving end of phone calls that no one wants to get.
In July 2016, she was told she had breast cancer. Two months later, doctors detected a secondary form of cancer in her other breast. Patti underwent a double mastectomy a month later.
I won’t make you wait for this happy ending: “I am what they call ‘NED’ or no evidence of disease, which is remission. I am lucky.”
Then, in October 2018, Patti picked up the phone. It was the love of her brother’s life, Judy.
“Your brother has been in an accident.”
Patti’s brother, Bobby, was a helicopter pilot. He flew to upstate New York with three other men to work on power lines as part of a project for New York’s power authority. At some point, it is believed the helicopter became tangled up in the lines and caught fire.
“Bobby helped everyone get out,” Patti said. “He made the jump after. He was alive when the EMTs arrived.” After the call, she and her sisters mobilized to head up to the hospital where they were taking Bobby but not too long after she received another call: her brother had passed, leaving behind Judy, his three daughters, and the countless other people who loved Bobby.
“Two of the men in the helicopter lived,” Patti said, “Bobby helped them get out and they survived.” In addition to Bobby, a fourth passenger also died.
“Bobby was the nicest guy and just so well respected,” Patti said. “He always wanted to fly. He started flying right out of high school and worked at the aviation school so he could get air time.” He then went on to become one of the first pilots in the aviation department of the Philadelphia Police and became a private pilot for two local families.
Despite the hole in their hearts left by Bobby’s passing, Patti, her sisters, and Bobby’s family were determined to stay strong and continue moving forward, just as Bobby would have wanted. They were cleaning out some of his belongings and Bobby’s daughter walked out of the house carrying a pair of his shoes to donate.
That’s when it hit Patti.
“I just thought ‘What are we doing?’ At some point we’re going to leave this place and someone is going to be carrying out our stuff. I just wanted to make sure ‘stuff’ isn’t the only thing we leave behind.”
With the support of her family as well as the families that Bobby worked for, she created Team Hoban’s A Hero in honor of her brother. “I want to continue the legacy he started, doing whatever he could for whoever needed it,” Patti said. “If you want to leave something other than stuff behind, you have to move your feet.”
And Team Hoban’s A Hero will be moving their feet with Legacy of Hope for PHL24, with an impressive $15K fundraising goal.
“When I was going through treatment, I didn’t have to worry about [finances]. I had health insurance…I had friends and family who could help me. But some days during treatment, you’re sitting on the couch thinking ‘I need to get up and do this. I need to get up and do that.’ and you just can’t. The energy isn’t there,” Patti says. “But I grew up in a house where you did have to worry about money. And we want to do what we can to make sure that we help those who are currently in that boat.”