By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 10/11/09
Dozens of players from the Philadelphia area dotted the rosters of the nine Division I teams that participated Saturday in the first day of play in the Third Annual Nick Colleluori Classic at Ridley High.
All those interviewed agreed that the event, which benefits the HEADstrong Foundation’s drive for research and development in the fight against blood cancer, meant much to the lacrosse world and the Philly lacrosse community.
“I’m from right here in Media and I’ve played on that field. It’s great that everyone is coming out and supporting it,” said Drexel senior midfielder/face-off specialist Nick Kusturiss, a Penncrest graduate. “It’s getting bigger and bigger every year.”
The Classic and the HEADsrong Foundation were created in the memory of the late Nick “Head” Colleluori, a Ridley grad who passed away three years ago due to Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Colleluori, who played lacrosse at Hofstra, has seen his dream of a cure for blood cancer lead to a cause that has raised $1 million dollars.
“It’s inspiring,” said Kusturiss of a presentation speech made by Nick’s mother, HEADstrong President Cheryl Colleluori Saturday. “It keeps everybody on pace and lets everybody know what’s important in life.”
Added Drexel senior attackman Bryan Brodzik: “I learned that every day is a gift and you have to take one day at a time,” said the Central Bucks East graduate. “Every day you wake up is a blessing.”
Brodzik noted how the HEADsrong Foundation has grown, evidenced by the Classic (now includes 16 teams over two day), its many events, and the sales of related apparel such as the signature lime green laces.
“I’m not surprised by that, it’s for a great cause,” he said. “There is no reason it shouldn’t blow up as big as it has.
“Last year I had the laces on and my little brother said, ‘That’s cool! Where’d you get those?’ So, I told him about the cause. He was all excited and I gave him the laces. Now, he is wearing the laces and that’s how it’s getting bigger and bigger.
Villanova junior defenseman Bryan McCartney, an Archbishop Wood graduate, has been to the event all three years.
“It’s great to be out here for the cause, especially because it means so much to so many people,” McCartney said. “Everybody has been touched by cancer in some way. All I hear is what a great guy he (Nick) was. I am honored to play for a memory like that. It gives us a reason to be out here, gets great teams, and is good for lacrosse in general.
“I was here for first tournament, it was a little smaller. It’s amazing how big it’s gotten. It’s very impressive. They have good leaders that know what they are doing.”
Penn senior midfielder Todd Tewksbury, an Upper Dublin grad, said all the players felt a special connection to Nick’s fight.
“It’s a great experience and a privilege to be involved,” he said. “It’s great to play in my home neighborhood. His message us you’ve got to live every day to the fullest and not take anything for granted.”
Tewksbury learned of another connection to the event when his new coach, former Haverford College mentor Mike Murphy, spoke to the Quakers about Nick Colleluori. Murphy has often told the story of one of his former players at Haverford, K.C. Peterson, who was suffering from blood cancer at the time Nick was going through his treatments.
Peterson became friends with Nick as the two supported each other. Murphy was the one who took Peterson to the hospital for treatments; and in this case, the story has a happy ending because Peterson licked the disease.
Now, continuing to support Nick’s cause, Peterson served as an Honorary Captain (for Penn) after serving in that role last year for Haverford College. Peterson also was one of 100 volunteers this weekend.
“Coach talked about it with us (Friday) for a good 20 minutes,” Tewksbury said. “He was saying it’s a privilege playing in this tournament. To have what we have, we can’t take it for granted.”
St. Joseph’s senior attack Sean Evans, a Henderson grad, believes the Classic has special meaning to the Philadelphia area.
“I think it’s a great thing,” said Evans “I have been associated with lacrosse in the area for a long time, playing for Duke’s Lacrosse Club and knowing a lot of the Ridley guys growing up.
“I have heard all the great things he did for Ridley and the whole area. It’s great to be a part of this every year. We’re proud as lacrosse players to be here.
“I feel like everyone feels that way. I coached lots of youth in the summer and to see kids with HEADstrong T-shirts, it’s great that everyone is supporting the cause and fighting this battle. Hopefully, this will help in finding a cure. This is a great thing and it’s a great thing that Nick started.”
Lafayette sophomore midfielder Rob Fitzpatrick, an Episcopal Academy grad, agreed:
“It’s great being back home and it’s a great cause,” he said. “It’s fun to be out here seeing kids you know from high school playing on other teams.
“The (HEADstrong) T-shirts are all over the place. We had to sell them to participate. It’s fun seeing everyone supporting the cause.”