By Adam Malmut
Hofstra lacrosse head Michael Colleluori keeps his brother’s spirit alive in a foundation supporting the fight against blood cancers.
In his final days, Nicholas “Head” Colleluori spent all his time trying to cheer up fellow cancer patients and brainstorming with his brother, Michael, about new ways to give people hope. On Nov. 28, 2006, after 14 months of intense chemotherapy, radiation and stem cell transplant, Nick lost his battle against non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. Nicholas was just 21.
Today Nicholas’s legacy and vision lives on through the family-run organization Nicholas started shortly before his death. The HEADstrong Foundation, named after Nicholas’s nickname on the field, provides support to patients, raise finds and spread public awareness about blood cancer.
In conjunction with the Hofstra University lacrosse program, the HEADstrong Foundation holds several yearly events, including the annual Nicholas Colleluori Lacrosse Classic, held at Ridley High School in Folsom, Pa. Seth Tierney, head coach of Hofstra lacrosse says the second annual Nicholas Colleluori Classic was his most unforgettable moment in his work with the HEADstrong Foundation.
“This past year’s tournament was hands down the most memorable for me,” says Tierney. “What was originally just a thought came true. To see where it has gone and how much money they made for research is amazing. Colleluori’s work ethic on and off the field is top notch. [Colleluori] went through such a difficult task losing his brother… and he has done an unbelievable job enduring.”
Nick’s mother, and Foundation President, Cheryl Colleluori said that she expects the upcoming Lacrosse Classic to spread awareness about blood cancer, as well as raise over $200,000, up from $175,000 last year. Between 16 and19 teams will take part in games across three lacrosse fields.
Michael, who also doubles as vice-president said, “Last year about 10,000 people showed up, we expect even more this year. I want what my brother Nick wanted; he wanted this foundation to be as big as the Lance Armstrong Foundation.”
The HEADstrong Foundation also sponsors grant programs for survivors of lymphoma, leukemia and myeloma, in the age range of 18-45, with up to $1,000 in assistance, as well as offer help to those who lose their health insurance. “Everything our organization takes part in relates back to Nick and his vision of helping people with this disease,” says Colleluori.
Colleluori recalls his brother’s last six weeks, when he was in hospice care. Shortly before Thanksgiving in 2006, Colleluouri withdrew from Hofstra so he could spend more time with Nicholas. Colleluori said his brother’s courage grew stronger as his body grew weaker. “His mentality during the whole thing was unbelievable. I’ve never seen anyone deal with an illness like this and still be focused on helping others.”
As the Headstrong Foundation looks toward the upcoming year, Colleluori revealed the campaign for 2009: “Score for the cure.” The campaign is designed to get child and teen lacrosse players involved in the drive to raise money for blood cancer research in the name of the late Nick Colleluori. The program will challenge students to find sponsors to donate 5 cents per goal to their teams during the season. Donors will be eligible for prizes, like lacrosse sticks or hats with the foundation’s lime green logo.
“We try to keep people involved,” said Colleluori. “We have a whole committee dedicated to finding new ways to keep Nick’s dream alive and we will continue to do so in the future.”
For the full story, check out the Spring issue of Pulse, available now.