Food Forward
April 4, 2016
The Story That Matters
September 6, 2017

Thrive in Joy Nick Fagnano Foundation

I never met Nick Fagnano but I will always remember the day, in 2015, I met his father Jay.

It was a pre-season meeting for the parents of Notre Dame High School’s baseball players. It was a baseball meeting similar to many I had attended before, until suddenly it wasn’t. After the usual announcements and requests for volunteers, Tom Dill, Notre Dame’s head coach, introduced Jay who, coach Dill informed us, had an announcement.

The audience grew somber and quiet as Jay stepped to the front of the room. Most in attendance were familiar with the story of Nick Fagnano, the former Notre Dame student and baseball player, who several months earlier had tragically lost his life when an aberrant summer lightning storm struck Venice Beach. The rogue storm claimed 13 victims. Nick was the only fatality.

Jay fought back tears as he told us of his plans for the upcoming season. He would use his passion and background in food service to transform the Notre Dame Baseball Stadium concession stand into a venue offering restaurant-quality food. As Jay continued, it became clear his vision wasn’t just about delivering delicious food items; it was about reconnecting with the Notre Dame community and, in particular, the baseball team. And, most of all, it was about reconnecting with Nick.

Nick Fagnano was blessed with the looks of a movie star and an infectious smile that was at once effortless and welcoming. When friends share their favorite stories of Nick, they frequently mention his smile and ability to brighten everyone’s day.

Nick had recently been accepted to the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy. He planned to study real estate and urban development — a dream he had worked hard to achieve. Nick had a zest for life and, by all measures, his future seemed bright.

Thrive in Joy Nick Fagnano Foundation: Through Tragedy Comes Purpose

Jay and his wife Mary know that no greater heartbreak exists than the loss of a child. Yet, in spite of their unfathomable pain, they have found the strength and courage to share Nick’s story through Thrive in Joy Nick Fagnano Foundation (TJNFF). If stories are the foundation of our identities, then Jay and Mary are the consummate storytellers.

Jay and Mary began TJNFF to encourage and reward character through education and recreation. What they have achieved in a short time is impressive and inspiring. Notable accomplishments include:

  • A student award to the Notre Dame High School baseball player who demonstrates good character and kindness to fellow students, teachers, coaches and other adults;
  • The USC Price School of Public Policy Nick Fagnano Memorial Scholarship to provide financial support to an incoming transfer student;
  • A donation of supplies and learning aids to the students and teachers at Collegio de Tia Tatiana, a school in the Dominican Republic; and
  • The construction of a sports field at Remar, an orphanage in Santo Domingo that is home to nearly 50 children, 17 of whom are HIV positive.

Jay and Mary are sharing Nick’s story because some stories must be told. Some flames are not meant to be extinguished. Some lights should never be dimmed.

Like me, many recipients of TJNFF’s charitable work have never met Nick Fagnano but, through Jay and Mary’s charitable mission, he has touched our souls nonetheless.

The 2nd Annual TJNFF Baseball Extravaganza

On Saturday, June 17, you can become part of Nick’s story by participating in the TJNFF Baseball Extravaganza at Notre Dame High School.

Notre Dame’s Marine Memorial Stadium will be transformed into Nick’s very own field of dreams where everyone bats a thousand and time isn’t measured by innings but the number of lives positively impacted.

All are welcome — players, volunteers and spectators alike. Festivities include a skills clinic and exhibition game for junior players, softball game open to all players (guys and gals) 18 years and over, a baseball game open to all present and past varsity baseball players, BBQ, silent auction, and much more. You can find all of the details at All proceeds from the event will benefit the programs supported by TJNFF. If you are unable to attend the event, please consider making a donation (no amount is too small).