For long-time Rogers Cup ball crew volunteer Nick D’Amico, memories of his late sister are felt all over the tournament grounds at Aviva Centre.
It’s been 16 months since Anne Marie D’Amico was tragically killed in the Toronto van attack of 2018 that thrust the D’Amico family name into news stories across the world. Growing up, the brother and sister spent their summers on court chasing down fluorescent yellow balls between points and into their adulthood became integral parts of the volunteer team.
After a difficult first year at the tournament without Anne Marie last August, Nick says that this year, being back at the Rogers Cup has been a much more positive experience.
“It was extremely emotional last year,” Nick said Tuesday morning at the tournament. “Seeing the places that she was and all the first experiences you remember from when she was here. It was tough. This year is very different. Being here gives the tournament more meaning for me as if it didn’t have enough after over 20 years.”
Back serving with his entire family, which includes his mother and grandmother who volunteer in press pass control and father who serves as a driver, Nick says the tournament is giving him and his family a new sense of comfort and purpose.
“It may sound cliché, but I understand what it feels like to feel somebody when they are not here,” Nick said. “[Rogers Cup] is where we grew up each summer and there are moments when it feels like she’s hugging you. It gets very nostalgic here. I have those happy moments all the time.”
Though Anne Marie passed away at just 30 years old, she left behind an enduring legacy highlighted by the amazing thoughtfulness and care she brought to her work. In 2016 she earned the Rogers Cup exemplary volunteer customer service award which speaks to how her years of service impacted the Rogers Cup family.
“We miss Anne Marie every day,” said Gavin Ziv, Managing Director of Rogers Cup. “She was an amazing young woman who gave so much love and passion to everything she did including being a volunteer at Rogers Cup. The D’Amico’s are a big part of our Rogers Cup family and Anne Marie specifically displayed all the positive attributes and values that it takes to be a good volunteer. We need to ensure that Anne Marie’s spirit continues to be present and fuel our lives and Rogers Cup.”
As part of that legacy, Rogers Cup has established the Anne Marie D’Amico Customer Service Volunteer Award which is presented each year to the person who best embodies the positive traits of excellent customer service. Also named in her honour is the $2,500 Ball Crew Scholarship which goes towards helping deserving ball kids in both Toronto and Montreal to continue their education.
In 2018 the family launched the Anne Marie D’Amico foundation through which they are committed to raising a million dollars for the North York Women’s Shelter to help combat violence against women. Recently the family travelled to their hometown in Italy where, in an official ceremony, a plaque was unveiled in her honour. Though it’s still been difficult to cope at times, Nick says seeing all that’s taking place to commemorate his sister’s strength is bringing everything they’ve been through full circle.
“We’re all beginning to see the fruits of our labour over the past year,” said Nick. “Coming up this Sunday we are giving out the first Anne Marie D’Amico Scholarship. Our work with the foundation is allowing us to stand up for something like my sister would have and it is really bringing my family a lot of strength.”
Nick will not be working the entire tournament this year as his wife will be giving birth to their second child, a girl, expected Friday. With a two year old already at home, they are prepared to have their hands full for a while. As for what they will be calling their now bundle of joy, Nick says as a couple, they are still undecided.
“Naming our daughter after my sister is definitely something my wife and I have talked about but we haven’t made any decisions yet,” said Nick. “Either way our daughters are going to know who their aunt is and just how much she would have loved them.”
Whether in spirit or in legacy initiatives, the D’Amico’s and the Rogers Cup family are committed to ensuring Anne Marie’s memory continues for generations to come.
“The awards are important as they are reminders that we need to fully embrace the core values of what she represented,” said Ziv. “Within all of our staff and volunteers at Rogers Cup it reminds us to truly allow her spirit to continue to shine.”