By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 10/9/11
Thousands of people took in a perfect sunny day Saturday to witness nine Division I teams playing Fall Ball lacrosse games at Ridley High, home of the late Nick Colleluori and the HEADstrong Foundation’s never-ending fight against blood cancer.
Two Philly teams – Lehigh and St. Joseph’s – joined Colgate, Cornell, Hofstra, Marist, Michigan, Mount St. Mary’s and Towson in competing in the 5th annual Nick Colleluori Classic. The event has already raised over $700,000 for blood cancer research and development in honor of Colleluori, who died five years ago after a fight against Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma while playing at Hofstra. Colleluori was a member of three state championship lacrosse teams at Ridley.
Action continues today at 9:30 a.m. on the turf and grass fields as one Division II team (Chestnut Hill College) and nine Division III squads (including Philly’s Neumann, Eastern, Ursinus, Widener and Albright) compete. Also in the field are Marywood, Scranton, Stockton State and St. Mary’s.
Once again, each team will have an honorary captain, a person that has dealt with blood cancer in some way.
The event has helped the HEADstrong Foundation raise more than $1 million dollars for blood cancer research and development. More than 120 volunteers are helping run the tourney, which also features a bone marrow drive.
The schedule and admission prices are below.
HEADstrong President Cheryl Colleluori, Nick’s mother, spoke during the intermission presentation about Nick’s unyielding courage and desire to help others and how that has helped the Colleluori push so hard to spread his message. It was Nick himself who created the HEADstrong Foundation while he was ill because he wanted to help others.
“Nick’s plan was to make this his career,” she told the crowd, with all the teams surrounding her in the middle of the stadium. “He would work with cancer patients, share in their experiences, counsel them and provide services and financial support to improve their lives.
“Instead of his career path, it has become his legacy. And to honor his last wishes we continue with his vision.”
One of the highlights of Colleluori’s speech was the introduction of one of Nick’s former teammates at Ridley, U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. Matthew Keeler. Keeler, a public affairs specialist with the 109th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, 310th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, received the Purple Heart in July for taking shrapnel during the Joint Operation Command in Iraq.
The games themselves drew huge crowds as fans got the chance to gauge how teams have come along with the end of the Fall Ball season arriving for most. St. Joseph’s, under first-year coach Taylor Wray (former Lehigh assistant and Philadelphia Wings team captain), turned some heads by downing Michigan (9-5) and Mount St. Mary’s (10-7).
Towson, also with a former Wing (Shawn Nadelen) at the helm as a new coach, looked strong as it handled Michigan (15-2) and toppled Lehigh (9-6). Marist, under new coach Keegan Wilkinson, a former St. Joseph’s standout, also looked strong by downing Colgate (7-3) and Mount St. Mary’s, 7-4. Cornell played tight games, topping Mount St. Mary’s (9-8) and tying Colgate (9-9) while also bowing to Hofstra, 6-5.
Hofstra, which also edged Lehigh, 2-1, has participated in all five Colleluori Classics. Early Saturday, Pride coach Seth Tierney took his team to visit “Nick’s House,” the new home of the HEADstrong Foundation just dedicated 10 days earlier. The home also houses two apartments, which offer free room and board to families traveling East while their loved one is being treated for blood cancer.
One of the college coaches, Mount St. Mary’s Tom Gravante, is a symbol of what the HEADstrong Foundation preaches. He was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma 10 years ago and has remained cancer free since enduring chemotherapy, radiation and a bone marrow transplant.
“It’s truly sad to hear about young people’s lives cut short by a disease that is curable,” he said. “I feel like I have known the Colleluori family all my life. I am grateful to the good Lord (for my good health).
“It’s unbelievable what has happened since his (Nick’s) passing. The Colleluori family is very adamant about find the cure. It’s incredible how much money has been raised. Hopefully some day quick, chemo will be obsolete and we’ll have a shot.
“I really appreciate the opportunity of coming back here on such a beautiful day at a great high school facility and playing in honor of such a wonderful young man.”
The players also understood the message being made at the event.
“It’s definitely great to be a part of something bigger than ourselves and raise money for a great cause,” said Michigan sophomore attackman Jeff Chu, a member of Conestoga’s state championship team in 2010.
5th Annual Nick Colleluori Classic Game Schedule- Day 2
Single Day Admission will be $10.00 for adults, $5.00 for children (12) and under, and free for children under 5.
Division II & III schedule, Sunday, Oct. 9
STADIUM TURF FIELD NATURAL GRASS FIELD
9:30 am Neumann vs. Eastern – Chestnut Hill vs. Ursinus
11:00 am Stockton vs. Albright – Scranton vs. St. Mary’s
12:30 pm Ursinus vs. Marywood – Widener vs. Neumann
2:10 pm HEADstrong Presentation
2:30 pm St. Mary’s vs. Chestnut Hill – Eastern vs. Stockton
4:00 pm Widener vs. Scranton – Albright vs. Marywood