As an athlete at Gilford High School, Amy (Annis) Colby was a force to be reckoned with. Joan Forge, who coached and taught at Gilford, said she was an outstanding athlete no matter the sport. She played basketball and softball, and helped lead her volleyball team to its first state championship. Then, in her senior year, she joined the newly formed club soccer team, even though it meant passing up on the chance to accompany the volleyball team on another championship run.
To Forge, that was just who she was, someone who identified what she wanted and immediately set out to pursue it.
“Amy did not think twice. She left that volleyball program, she was happy to be on the club soccer team,” said Forge, noting that Colby was as dedicated to her academics as she was to athletics. Considering her determined nature, Forge thought it fitting that Colby would pursue a career in law. Her nature also made it all the more shocking to the Gilmanton and Gilford communities when Colby – then known by Annis, her maiden name – was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer at the young age of 28. Despite the diagnosis, Colby continued her life, graduating from Massachusetts School of Law in 2010 and in 2011, marrying David Colby, a police officer she had met in law school.All the while, though, the cancer was progressing. By 2011, Colby was undergoing experimental treatment that her insurance company wasn’t covering, so Forge approached the family to see if there was anything that she could do to help.
That conversation gave birth to the Amy Annis Volleyball Tournament, which will be held this year at 9 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 30. The tournament will feature 16 teams, entry fees from which will be added to proceeds from the bake sale table, and the funds will benefit breast cancer research as well as a scholarship fund in Amy’s name.
Though the first tournament was held to help the family with expenses, Forge and her husband, Rick, who also coaches at Gilford, have kept the event going. Forge said it was a promise she made to Colby back in 2011, the first time the tournament was held.
Colby died on Sept. 25, 2012. She was 32.
“We weren’t sure she was going to make that first tournament because we could see how sick she was... She was so overwhelmed by all the support she got. I promised her, we’re going to do this every year in your name.”
Lydia Bartlett is Colby’s sister, ten years younger. Colby was a role model, Bartlett said.
“She was a spitfire,” she said. She remembers her sister as aggressive, sometimes difficult, but lots of fun to be around. “Nothing was going to get in her way, ever.”
Bartlett said her sister was someone who relied upon herself to accomplish her goals. The tournament made her recognize just how much love and support was surrounding her.
“She always did things on her own. It was definitely eye-opening for her to see other people doing things for her, that she didn’t have to do everything on her own.”
For the family, Bartlett said, the event is a chance to remember Amy through an athletic competition, something she would have relished.
“We have so much fun,” said Bartlett. “It’s a way for us to give back to everyone that’s helped us along the way, and helped Amy along the way.”
Forge said the event is similarly personal. “For me, I never had kids. The athletes that we coach, we treat them like they’re our daughters ... When someone like Amy passes away, it’s like we lost a daughter.”
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