By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 9/28/11
It was fitting that the HEADstrong Foundation would unveil its new home Tuesday night on none other than Green Street.
After all, HEADstrong’s lime green shoe laces and apparel have become a staple in the lacrosse world as the message spreads about Nick Colleluori and his fight against blood cancer.
Several hundred people attended the dedication of “Nick’s House” as five months of relentless work culminated in the grand opening of a near 3,000-square foot structure that will serve as the HEADstrong office, a warehouse and most importantly, a temporary home for up to two families to stay while their child is being treated for blood cancer. The building is located in the Philly suburb of Holmes – just blocks from the home of the Colleluori family, which has dedicated itself to building the legacy of son Nick who so desperately wanted to help other with blood cancer.
“Nick’s House” was 90 percent funded through donations to the HEADstrong Foundation that Nick created before he passed away five years ago after a fight with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Colleluori, a Ridley grad, was a lacrosse player at Hofstra University.
In the five years, the HEADstrong Foundation has grown to remarkable heights. Last week 13 teams competed in the 3rd annual Nick Colleluori Women’s Lacrosse Classic at Hofstra and in two weekends 19 men’s lacrosse teams will compete in the 5th annual Nick Colleluori Classic just down the road from “Nick’s House” at Ridley High. The Foundation is also involved in dozens of community events and activities throughout the country to help raise money for research and awareness for all blood cancers.
Nick’s mother, Cheryl, the HEADstrong president and noted spokesperson, addressed the large throng of supporters to open the ceremony Tuesday.
“It’s very rewarding,” she said, noting that the first beneficiaries of the apartment upstairs will arrive today from Colorado while their child is receiving treatment. “We are very humbled that people believe in us and that the lacrosse world has been so supportive. Nicholas is our inspiration and the lacrosse community is our encouragement.”
Pat Colleluori, Nick’s father, said the house, which had foreclosed, was in terrible shape and had to be gutted. He said dozens of people and businesses donated time and equipment to rebuild the foundations, redo the plumbing and electrical system and provide drywall and paint, just to get started.
In the front of the structure is large warehouse space for apparel, and then office space for four people. The upstairs has two rooms for the families and a living room area. Throughout the office area and warehouse are reminders of Nick Colleluori, his portrait, his No. 27 shirt and even his locker on the steps up to the second floor.
“This building was a beat up, old and dilapidated structure and I was able to pull union buddies and non-union buddies,” said Pat Colleluori. “We all worked together. The only problem with the job was telling people no and that;s a good thing.
“We got all new plumbing, water, electrical – everything had to be gutted.
“The community stepped up. We had heating units donated, a washer-dryer, 300 dry walls given … people just heard about it and asked, ‘How can I help? What doi you need’
“Our board came up with the idea to have people register for Bed, Bath and Beyond and if all they could donate was the money for a can opener and a few mugs, that’s what they gave. But they are part of a Team of Champions.
“The (guest) apartments are outstanding and they give them all the comfort of home. There is no sign of lacrosse up there, it’s just for them. The locker is in the stairwell; that’s Nick.”
Cheryl Colleluori said, as she has countless times before, that Nick’s legacy and leadership continues.
“Nick is like a pied piper,” she said. “It’s amazing to have the youth of today looking up to him.”
Son Pat Colleluori, Jr., the Foundation’s director of marketing and development, said the new house has helped him to deal with the pain of losing his younger brother.
“I have never felt comfortable in the five years at home since Nick passed away,” he said. “But when I came here I felt at ease.
“This legitimizes our efforts. It’s been so well received in the lacrosse community and that’s very comforting.”
Mr. Colleluori said the Foundation hopes to add more space and possibly other buildings and also has proposed to provide opportunity for students with disabilities from the Ridley School District to get involved in service.
“That was Nick; he was always about giving back,” Colleluori said. “We take on that motto.”