Antony Proteau had a competitive spirit, a smile that would light up a room and a love of sports – particularly hockey – that was rivalled only by his love of his extended family and the close-knit group of friends who were such an important part of his life.
When Antony died of cancer at the age of 23, his friends were determined to keep his memory alive by raising funds for a cancer-related cause. “We really wanted the money to have a direct impact on young adults, so Hope & Cope was a natural choice,” said James Lavinskas. And so, with the help of their parents, siblings, girlfriends, colleagues and acquaintances, they held the very first Antony Proteau Ball Hockey Tournament in 2012.
What started off five years ago as a modest event has grown substantially; in 2016, the tournament expanded to include women’s and kids’ teams, attracting 22 teams, 275 participants, dozens of volunteers and a growing number of sponsors.
On October 17th, volunteers and sponsors were invited to the JGH Hope & Cope Wellness Centre / Lou’s House for a “5 à 7”, where they were thanked for their generosity and had the opportunity to see the positive impact of the funds they help raise each year.
The vast majority of volunteers and sponsors in attendance either knew Antony personally or were touched by his story, and this was what motivates them to remain involved. Carla Orsini, whose brother Keif, was good friends with Antony, said, “We all grew up together. The tournament is like one big interconnected family. Even though it’s grown, it still feels like family.”
Dominic Schiavi, Tim’s father, spoke about the famous sausage subs he used to make for Antony and his friends. When the idea of a ball hockey tournament was proposed, Dominic had 100% confidence in its success. “These are good kids who are still such close friends after all these years. You don’t see that often.” Dominic, also known as “The BBQ man”, works the BBQ every year, joking about the four-foot flames that are his signature. “I’ll keep doing this as long as they need me.”
Tim’s sister, Alicia, and mother, Maria, also have volunteered enthusiastically since the beginning. “Antony and his friends knew each other from Loyola High School. They shared a love of sports and the belief in the value of giving back.”
Through their linen supply company, Delfab, Carolyn Deluca and her father, Don Deluca, have sponsored the tournament from the beginning, fielding a team and working as volunteers during the event. They were happy to have the opportunity to tour the Wellness Centre, noting that, “It’s nice to put images and faces to a cause we are pleased to support.”
Drew Laurie and Thomas Kontogianis, who were drafted to be part of the organizing committee, have helped to create a viable structure, expand the tournament’s profile and bring in new sponsors. “It’s great to be around these guys – their competitive spirit motivates them to keep improving,” noted Drew.
Speaking on behalf of the Antony Proteau (AP) Fund, Tim Schiavi told the assembled guests, “What you do for this fund is amazing. We are so grateful to all of our sponsors and volunteers for keeping Antony’s memory alive and helping young adults with cancer.”
Hope & Cope Executive Director, Suzanne O’Brien added her thanks as well, noting that, since 2012, the AP Fund has raised $116,000 net. These funds have partially or fully sponsored: 3-day retreats for young adults who are new to our Hope & Cope community; Canada’s first ever retreat for young adults with metastatic and advanced cancer; programs for children and young families; transportation to and from treatment for patients who otherwise could not afford to come to the hospital; and a video called The Power of Me, the Power of We, featuring young adults discussing what they wish their medical team had asked them. This video will be used primarily as a teaching tool to help health care professionals understand the needs and specific challenges of young adults with cancer.
Board member, volunteer and five-time cancer survivor, Deborah Bridgman, told the group that their involvement makes a tremendous difference. “I’ve attended some of the events sponsored by the Antony Proteau Fund, and I can tell you that the young adults are grateful for the chance to connect with their peers and to learn strategies for coping with the many difficult challenges they face.” She recalled meeting Antony in the YA Cancer Clinic, “Antony had the biggest smile on earth.”
The last word belongs to tournament volunteer Lisa Pichovich, who expressed her pride in Antony’s friends for creating and growing the Fund. “Their dedication is amazing and I think that they are successful because people see how genuine they are and how much they care about this cause.”