By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse,com, Posted 3/26/11
Over 300 lacrosse supporters packed the Hyatt Regency Hotel Friday night to celebrate the life and legacy of Nick Colleluori in the Inaugural Lime Light Gala hosted by the HEADstrong Foundation.
WMMR Radio personality Casey Fosbenner and John Clark, the NBC 10 Sports anchor, served as emcees for an event that raised funds and awareness for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and the work of Dr. Stephen J. Schuster at the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania.
Mr. Colleluori was a former lacrosse standout at Ridley High who never allowed a lack of size or any challenge to stand in his way. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma while a sophomore lacrosse player at Hofstra University on Long Island and attacked his condition with the type of vigor that has made him a legend in lacrosse and well beyond.
Most of the speakers Friday talked about how Colleluori dealt with his diagnosis of a dreaded blood cancer. Instead of feeling sorry for himself, he accepted the challenge of fighting not only his disease, but working to find a cure for anyone that had blood cancer.
Colleluori used his nickname, “Head,” and the word, “strong,” and developed the HEADstrong name. His family, a large, hometown Delaware County clan, has continued his fight for a cure by raising more than $1 million for cancer research, development and awareness.
Colleluori passed away on Nov. 28, 2008. Since then, the HEADstrong Foundation has become entrenched in the world of lacrosse through the Nick Colleluori Classic, lime green laces and apparel (lime is the color designated for blood cancer awareness), a lacrosse club team, and dozens of other community service events with the intent of delivering Nick’s message.
“Nick will live forever,” Clark said.
As she always does with elegance and a heavy heart, HEADstrong President Cheryl Collelluori spoke through tears about her son’s gift to her family and the lacrosse world and how his message is what keep her going.
Also honored Friday was Nick’s doctor, Dr. Stephen J. Schuster of the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania. Schuster is credited for being one of the premier doctors in the field of blood cancer treatment and research and continues to vigorously pursue a cure.
Perhaps the most inspiring of the many speakers Friday was Joe Clifford III, who was diagnosed with acute Leukemia on Oct. 10, 2008.
Clifford was given a 25 percent chance of survival and spoke of the intense physical pain, and even worse emotional pain of feeling he would be leaving his wife, daughter and newborn son, Joe Clifford IV.
“One day my wife called me and said our 2-year-old daughter was having trouble walking and thought there was something wrong,” Clifford said. “But it dawned on me then that she missed her daddy. That was the worst pain – but this story gets better.
“The HEADstrong Foundation held a Thanksgiving Feast and invited 22 members of my family. They gave me the one thing I needed the most – my family. It meant so much to me.”
Clifford went on to say that he received a bone marrow transplant in 2009 from his brother and even changed his blood type. He is expecting twins in August and joked that although he feels so good, he still cannot get life insurance – but doesn’t care!
Another speaker of note was Hofstra’s current coach, Seth Tierney, who arrived on Long Island shortly before Nick’s passing. Tierney has become one of the biggest supports of the HEADstrong Foundation and brings his team to Ridley High ever year to play in the Nick Colleluori Classic and bring his team to the gravesite to honor Nick.
“Nick’s impact on Hofstra lacrosse is just as strong now as it ever was,” he said. “I only talked to him four times, but he has done so much to teach me and my family.”
Hofstra assistant coach Joe Ample, who recruited Nick from Ridley when many thought he was too small to play major Division I lacrosse, said that Nick taught everyone about “something nobody wants to talk about – love.”
Tags: HEADstrong Foundation