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Bon Bon Fund Benefits State College Area Students Who Lose a Parent

by and on August 04, 2017 12:05 AM

Bonnie Heebner Wagner would have been 56 years old on Friday. Last October, she lost her battle with cancer, leaving behind a daughter about to finish high school.

Now, friends of Heebner Wagner are hoping to create a scholarship for State College Area High School seniors who lose a parent before graduating.

Beth Delricco, a long-time and close friend, said she was looking for scholarships for Heebner Wagner’s daughter, Emilie Tarman, and realized there weren’t any to benefit those who lose a parent.

So was born the Bon Bon Fund scholarship, which will make its first splash through a mailer on Friday to State High alumni.

Among the initial donors were Mimi Barash Coppersmith and her daughter Nan Barash, another of Heebner Wagner’s friends, who knows the struggles of losing a parent while young. Her father passed when she was just 13 years old.

“My biggest memory of Bonnie was (when we were) 12 or 13 years old,” Barash said. “She was one friend that was there for me when my father was dying of cancer. She just walked with me, talked with me. She was just the truest friend a person could have.”

Barash, who grew up in State College and now lives in Bryn Mawr, said Heebner-Wagner would stick with you through thick and thin.

“She was a very loyal person,” she said. “She was loyal beyond what most friends are. If she was on your team, she was all in. There was no half in with Bonnie.”

Delricco said Heebner-Wagner was “horrified” at the thought of a GoFundMe campaign to raise money in her battle against cancer. But, since the Bon Bon Fund would benefit another person, she said it was fitting that her close friend’s story could be used for something good.

The two initially met in seventh grade, and were close right from the start of their friendship, always staying in touch, even though Delricco moved away at 21, she said.

“She was raised by parents who taught her to get up every day and be grateful for what you have,” Delricco said. “So even from the young age that we met, I can always remember her saying, ‘Oh, I’m so glad we’re friends. I’m so glad we found each other.’”
She and Barash described Heebner-Wagner as “absolutely selfless” and intensely loyal.

Delricco and Barash said they hope the State College community will honor her memory to help people like her daughter Emilie, who Delricco said was very close with her mother.

“She lived and breathed for Emilie,” Delricco said about Heebner Wagner. “Emilie would enter the room and Bonnie’s face would light up.”

Heebner Wagner was born in Bellefonte in 1961. She graduated State High in 1979 and from Penn State in 1987. For years, she worked at Moyer Jewelers, was the manager at the Nittany Mall and also worked in real estate.

In 2004, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She battled and beat it, and was cancer free for nine years before it returned. She passed away Oct. 17, 2016, just eight months before Tarman was due to graduate from high school. She had married Doug Wagner just months before on Aug. 5.

The family then continued to grieve through the loss of Heebner-Wagner’s sister, Sally Rock, earlier this year.

The Bon Bon Fund gets its name partly because it was Heebner Wagner’s nickname, but also because bonbon means sweet treat, Barash said.

Those wishing to donate to the fund can find it at, or mail a check to The Bon Bon Fund, in care of Centre Foundation, 1377 Ridgemaster Drive, State College, PA 16803.

This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.

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