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We first met Todd Foege in June 2013 at his 40-under-40 shoot, where he made a great first impression by hauling along a magnum of vino—a fitting prop for a 6-foot 5-inch guy with a large, outgoing personality, who worked with the Naples Children and Education Foundation (NCEF)—founder of the Naples Winter Wine Festival.

So we were truly saddened when we learned that Todd, 38, passed away in early July following a cardiac arrest.

In local philanthropic and business circles, Todd had earned a stellar reputation over the years. “I don’t think children could’ve had a better advocate,” says Tom Moran, managing director—investments, senior PIM portfolio manager of Moran Edwards Asset Management Group of Wells Fargo Advisors.

Todd was the first full-time employee at The Learning Connection, which opened as a volunteer organization in the early 1990s, and Tom served as the nonprofit’s first board president. The Learning Connection—which closed in 2006 after fundraising failed to keep up with expenses—helped academically struggling students with homework, individual tutoring, and college and career counseling.

Todd, who earned his bachelor’s degree from Florida State University and MBA from Hodges University, later took a leading role with NCEF, working on grants and becoming executive director (eventually he left that position). He also worked with other nonprofits through his firm, EGF Consulting Group.

And when he wasn’t helping the community’s youth, he doted on his daughter, Emma Grace, 7, as well as nephews Taj, 4, and Van, 3, says their mother and Todd’s sister, Dama Foege. (He had tattoos of all their names.)

“Everything he did was with a lot of passion. He was a big guy who was a hero,” she says.

Looking back at his 40-under-40 nomination, it’s clear why he was chosen by the judges as a winner. Here are his words from the story: “Success doesn’t have to be gauged by financial gain. Success, to me, is driving around town and seeing that kids are better, because a little bit of my work is helping kids go to school in a safe environment, getting the services that they need.”

His family has set up the Emma Grace Foege Educational Fund in care of Wells Fargo Bank, 610 Summit Ave., Suite 301, St. Paul, Minnesota, 55102, as well as Todd’s charity of choice, the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Collier County Children’s Mental Health, 6216 Trail Blvd., Naples, 34108.

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