Thrive in Joy Nick Fagnano Foundation

Encouraging and Rewarding Character Through Service, Education, and Recreation

It all started when…

Nick was 13 years old and saw a TV show about how kids in the Dominican Republic love baseball as much as he did yet, due to poverty, they make-do with sticks for bats and rocks or water jug caps for balls. At the end of his final season of Little League, Nick encouraged his teammates to donate their used baseball equipment for kids in the DR. Following Nick’s passing (see About Nick page), his parents, Mary and Jay, launched the Thrive in Joy Nick Fagnano Foundation with the intent to continue what Nick started in the Dominican Republic by providing vulnerable children support for their health, educational, recreational, and spiritual needs. With a commitment to travel to the DR twice a year, the Foundation also encourages others to experience the joy of service. Most recently, the Foundation has launched the C11 initiative which will evolve into a character strength curriculum focusing on 11 of Nick’s traits and will provide scholarships and financial awards for grade school, high school, and college students who have demonstrated character strengths that align with Nick’s.

Why C11?

C, the first letter of “character,” is also the chemical symbol for carbon— the strongest element found on earth of which diamonds are made. The quality of a diamond is measured by its brilliance.

Strength + Brilliance = C11

We’re a community committed to keeping Nick’s light shining by equipping and empower others to discover their character strengths and, in doing so, bring a new sparkle to their communities. Our focus is 11 VIA (Values in Action ) traits that best describe Nick's strengths and how he brought light to others:

Perseverance: Finishing what one starts; persevering in a course of action in spite of obstacles; "getting it out the door"; taking pleasure in completing tasks

Kindness: Doing favors and good deeds for others; helping them; taking care of them

Perspective: Being able to provide wise counsel to others; having ways of looking at the world that make sense to oneself/others

Spirituality: Having coherent beliefs about the higher purpose and meaning of the universe; knowing where one fits within the larger scheme; having beliefs about the meaning of life that shape conduct and provide comfort.

Humility: Letting one's accomplishments speak for themselves; not regarding oneself as more special than one is.

Humor: Liking to laugh and tease; bringing smiles to other people; seeing the light side; making (not necessarily telling) jokes.

Zest: Approaching life with excitement and energy; not doing things halfway or halfheartedly; living life as an adventure; feeling alive and activated

Love: Valuing close relationships with others, in particular those in which sharing & caring are reciprocated; being close to people

Honesty: Speaking the truth but more broadly presenting oneself in a genuine way and acting in a sincere way; being without pretense; taking responsibility for one's feelings and actions

Teamwork: Working well as a member of a group or team; being loyal to the group; doing one's share.

Gratitude: Being aware of and thankful for the good things that happen; taking time to express thanks.

11 character strengths from the VIA Classification of 24 Character Strengths ©Copyright 2004-2018, VIA Institute on Character. All Rights Reserved. Used with

With these strengths in mind, the Thrive in Joy Nick Fagnano Foundation engages in the following activities:

  • Two mission trips per year to the Dominican Republic—in March and November. In partnership with VisionTrust International, we invite others to join us to participate in quality of life improvement projects and, most importantly, bringing love and encouragement to vulnerable children growing up in impoverished communities.

  • Recognition of and support for C11 influencers (C11i). A person qualifies as a C11i by engaging in community service or random acts of kindness and sharing a video or a written summary of how they had an impact, or how someone had an impact on them, through exhibiting one or more of Nick’s 11 character traits.

  • Awarding of scholarships to individuals who demonstrate one or more of Nick’s character traits. Currently scholarships are awarded to: 1) A transfer student pursuing a degree at USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy, whose mission statement is “To improve the quality of life for people and their communities here and abroad” 2) A graduating senior who has played baseball all 4 years at Notre Dame High School whose mission is “Educating hearts and minds” 3) A graduating 8th grade student at St. Brendan School which has commitment to supporting character strengths and service to others.

Everyone, regardless of age, is invited to join the C11 initiative: These 11 traits that we attribute to Nick lead the Foundation's mission of encouraging and rewarding character through service, education, and recreation.   We believe these are empowering words that can inspire all to have a significant impact in their communities through a focus on serving others in everyday small things as well as bigger commitments and, in doing so, spread joy. Each person’s impact can’t help but inspire others to do the same.  Post on social media using #C11i how one of these character strengths has inspired you, or email us ( a short video or a written statement sharing how you used one of these 11 character traits and we’ll post to our website and share. Everyone who participates will be recognized and entered in a monthly drawing for TJNFF gear.  Your story will  keep Nick's light shining because we’ve seen that character is contagious and it's ironic that it's also the cure for a world that needs healing. Join the C11 community you see featured on this website and bring hope...because where there's hope, there's joy.