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Mom's Charity Work Keeps Late Oradell Teen's Name Alive

Lucija Begonja and her son, Philip.
Lucija Begonja and her son, Philip. Photo Credit: Facebook
Philip Begonja, second from left, with his family on a vacation to Europe.
Philip Begonja, second from left, with his family on a vacation to Europe. Photo Credit: Facebook

ORADELL, N.J. — Lucija Begonja stands in her Oradell kitchen wondering what she might be doing if her son were still alive.

Maybe she’d be helping Philip move into his first apartment, filling his car with gas or taking him shoe shopping — as most parents do.

That he died suddenly in his sleep on Christmas morning 2011 hasn't stopped Begonja from still being a parent: Philip’s Fund, which she launched following his death, awards educational grants and scholarships to young people requiring financial assistance.

“You do something for your child your whole life and then all of a sudden there’s nothing you can do for them,” she said. “People often don’t want to say their [late] child’s name but I want Philip mentioned because I want him here.”

Philip’s Fund has raised more than $10,000 for a New York City non-profit organization dedicated to helping the Walter Bishop Magnet School of the Arts in Queens.

An Oradell book drive last month collected more than 2,000 books for the school’s new library.

Begonja and her cousin, who illustrated a children’s book dedicated to Philip called “Polar Bear Boys,” visit the schools regularly to read to preschoolers. She donates a copy of the book to each toddler every time.

“It helps me, it helps kids and I know Philip would like that,” said Begonja, who also runs marathons in her son’s name to raise money for the organization. “I feel like I’m doing something for him and he’s doing that through me.”

CLICK HERE to donate to Philip’s Fund.

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