We’ll start today with a heartwarming story about an 11-year-old boy with a terminal illness. Columnist Maria Panaritis and photographer Tom Gralish spent time with him and his friends at school and they tell the story of what true friendship really looks like.

In other news, we recap last night’s Democratic debate, update you on where the soda tax money is (or isn’t) going, and relay advice from Bryce Harper on how to legally steal signs (looking at you, Houston).

They call themselves “Connor’s Crew," a group of BFFs who can’t get enough of Connor Dobbyn, who, at just 11 years old, may be gone before any of them graduate from high school. The West Vincent Elementary School student has Sanfilippo syndrome, a rare, terminal disease known as “childhood Alzheimer’s." It’s been stripping him of IQ points, language, life expectancy, and the outward traits of an ordinary child.

My colleagues, columnist Maria Panaritis and photojournalist Tom Gralish, spent time at Connor’s Chester County school after Panaritis first wrote about him last month. They spoke to his friends, the children who know that Connor’s brain is under attack, but also that they still love being around him.

“I know he’s probably going to die before everyone else will," one of his friends said. "That’s why I want to enjoy being with him — before he dies.”

Mayor Jim Kenney’s signature achievement — taxing soda and sweetened beverages — brought hope for dozens of dilapidated facilities around the city. There was a promise of a $500 million investment in parks, recreation centers, and libraries called “Rebuild.” And it was to be funded largely by the new tax.

But nearly four years after City Council passed the beverage tax, little construction work has begun.

As Kenney starts his second term, about two dozen projects — many of them are small-scale items such as replacing roofing and sidewalks — are complete. Dozens more are underway. But, the biggest promises are in the planning stages or have yet to launch. And, the project’s budget and scope have shrunk.

Unlike the bail reform that has swept through New Jersey and New York, bail reform in Pennsylvania has inched forward at a more cautious pace. In the Keystone State, change has been pushed by litigation rather than legislation.

As a result of a lawsuit filed last year by the ACLU of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia’s court leadership agreed to changes that could lead to more people being released before their trials. And now, it’s up to the state Supreme Court to decide whether those changes go far enough.

What you need to know today

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Voting in a Leap Year
Jeff Koterba/Omaha World Herald
Voting in a Leap Year

“Just because a policy reflects our values of empathy and civil rights doesn’t constrict its power as an effective public safety tool. And just because a policy seems ‘tough,’ that doesn’t mean it makes us any safer.” — writes Frank Corrado, a lawyer in Cape May County, about New Jersey’s immigrant trust directive after the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit challenging it.

  • After hundreds of lawsuits and thousands of claims alleging child sex abuse, the Boy Scouts filed for bankruptcy, which may block justice for victims, writes Marci A. Hamilton, a professor at Penn and CEO of the nonprofit CHILD USA.
  • With Philly awarding $8 billion verdicts against companies, the city can become less antibusiness by looking at the courts, write Tiger Joyce, the president of the American Tort Reform Association, and Curt Schroder, a former member of the Pa. House of Representatives and current executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform.

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Your Daily Dose of | The UpSide

Barbara Hinckley lost $18,000 in savings to a con man. When it was all over, she said she had less than $9 in her account. But all was not lost. A spaghetti dinner saved the day. Friends, neighbors, and strangers came together to share a meal and raise money to help Hinckley. With donations ranging from $5 to more than $1,000, they raised enough to bring her account back to its original balance.