Family of van attack victim, Rye grad, to donate foundation funds to new women’s shelter

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By Kelly Skjerven

A North York women’s shelter will benefit from funds raised by the newly launched Anne Marie D’Amico Foundation.

Anne Marie D’Amico, who graduated from Ryerson’s business management program, was killed in the Toronto van attack on April 23, 2018.

The family started thinking about creating the foundation in the fall of 2018 in honour of Anne Marie and launched it on Dec. 3, which would have been Anne Marie’s 31st birthday, according to her brother Nick D’Amico, who is the president of the foundation.

The foundation will aim to raise awareness about violence against women through events including The Turtle Project, which is being planned for Dec. 3, 2019. Although the event’s itinerary is not finalized yet, the family plans to invite professional performers.

In efforts to bring awareness to the issue of violence against women, D’Amico said the event may include survivors of violence who are comfortable sharing their stories.

The foundation will aim to raise awareness about violence against women

Anne Marie’s childhood nickname was the inspiration for the title of The Turtle Project. As a young girl, Anne Marie was nicknamed tartaruga by her grandfather, the Italian word for turtle.

“She built homes in Dominican, she was a part of Big Brothers, Big Sisters here in Toronto [and] she volunteered with Rogers Cups, so she always kind of had that humanitarian gene in her and that humanitarian way about her,” said D’Amico.

The family plans to donate money raised by the foundation to the North York Women’s Shelter, which is currently in the process of building a new shelter and community services hub for women and children impacted by violence, said executive director, Mohini Datta-Ray.

“We just thought, what a great way to kind of continue her legacy as that kind of person,” D’Amico said.

The shelter was able to receive $9 million in funding from the provincial and federal government, according to their website. In agreement with the government, the shelter needs to raise the remaining $3 million in cost through their own campaign. Datta-Ray said this is common for large grants as a way for the community to come together to raise money for buildings that serve the public.

According to the statistics provided by the shelter’s campaign, one in three women will experience abuse in their lifetime.

Although the D’Amico’s foundation does not have a concrete financial goal, knowing the shelter needs to raise three million dollars is a motivation for them to help, her brother said.

The new facility will be eight times larger than the previous shelter facility, including 17 private bedrooms for women and children, and a kennel for pets—a first for a violence against women shelter in Toronto—according to Datta-Ray.

The shelter will be attached to a community services hub which will include a primary health care clinic, immigration services, legal services, mental health services and other community programming for women and children who are impacted by violence but may not be living in a shelter, according to Datta-Ray.

According to D’Amico, the family has discussed the idea of supporting the community services hub.

“The community hub really meets a lot of their desires to honour Anne Marie’s legacy, because it will have the potential to reach out and touch so many people in the community and really shift community dynamic,” said Datta-Ray. “That’s what they’re looking to do, they’re looking to actually make a difference in terms of violence against women itself.”

The new shelter and community services hub will be completed later this year, she said.

The shelter will use research about violence against women shelters to inform what design models help reduce retraumatization. Some of the suggestions from research studies include shelters should have more natural light, and child-friendly spaces, Datta-Ray added.

“It’s essentially being built with theoretical principles in mind around what can reduce retraumatization.”

Although Anne Marie was not personally involved with the shelter, her aunt did work there, D’Amico said.

The family is putting their focus into the main event of the foundation, The Turtle Project, said D’Amico. The family sees it lasting for years to come, bringing awareness to violence against women and raising money for the memorial fund he added.

“As long as [violence against women] is an issue that needs to be dealt with I think this is how long The Turtle Project will be around for,” he said.

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