By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 10/12/14
One of the highlights of the first day of action at the 8th Annual Nick Colleluori Classic Saturday at Ridley was the halftime speech by HEADstrong President Cheryl Colleluori and the introduction of Katherine Frega, a junior at Syracuse who has been fighting Hodgkin’s Lymphoma for five years.
Frega, the 2013 winner of the Nicholas E. Colleluori Award at the HEADstrong Spring Gala, is cancer free and told the gathering how far she has come to overcome a life-threatening disease and evolve into a Pre-Med major who plans to be a doctor.
And amazingly, just to her side, where all six Division I teams were watching, was her younger brother, Bellarmine freshman midfielder Mark Frega.
“I’m just blessed that everybody is happy and healthy and doing well,” said Mark Frega. a Millbrook School (N.Y.) grad. “The Colleluori family came to visit my sister in the hospital. They are amazing people and everything they are doing for HEADstrong is great.”
How does Mark Frega view Nick Colleluori’s message to stay relentless?
“It means you have to keep on fighting no matter what; even if you have crazy odds against you. You have to fight to the last minute and fight to the last breath.”
Senior midfielder Nicky Galasso was named the Syracuse recipient of the Nick Colleluori Award and said the speech made at halftime of the event by HEADstrong President Cheryl Colleluori brought tears. His mother, Cindy, passed away 10 years ago due to lung cancer and a brain tumor and he also was touched by Katherine Frega’s inspirational story.
“It’s an honor getting the award and I feel for the (Colleluori) family,” Galasso said. “That girl’s story hit my heart. I started tearing up, thinking of my mom.”
Galasso’s Orange also excelled, defeating Bellarmine, 14-5 and Binghamton, 13-6.
“As a team I think we did pretty well – I think we had to pick up where we left off at our Alumni game. I think we are playing pretty well and we’re excited for the season.”
Syracuse’s lone Philly player, senior defenseman Bobby Tait (Germantown Academy) enjoyed coming home and seeing his team close Fall Ball with momentum.
“It was a really awesome event,” said Tait. “It’s always great coming home and seeing family, but the cause here is the most important thing. Being from the area, I have always known what the (HEADstrong Foundation) message is, but wherever you’re from, upstate or anywhere around the country, I think the message is important and everyone should be aware of it.
“I think we always have things to work on, but it’s good to play against someone else and see our strengths and weaknesses. Luckily, we brought a lot of guys back and I think we can make a run again.”
Hofstra coach Seth Tierney said Nick’s legacy has continued to grow in the Hofstra community.
“Nick had that personality and effect on the team,” he said. “Nobody here played with Nick, but his spirit is as strong as it’s ever been. We try to keep that alive and it bellows pretty loud in our locker room. Every year (before the Classic) we watch the film of Nick and hear his voice that really hit home.”
Tierney also credits the Colleluori family for building the HEADstrong Foundation into a renowned fundraising community.
“I think this is a credit to the Colleluori family. Even when the deck was stacked against them, they plowed through. They’ve done an unbelievable job working countless hours and our hats go off to them.”
Hartford, which started Fall Ball practice several weeks later than most teams, had a loss and tie in its two games Saturday. Its Nick Colleluori recipient, senior defenseman Brian Monks, said the event was meaningful for many reasons.
“This recognition is definitely an honor,” he said. “It’s a personal connection with Nick’s family here and that means a lot.”
Hartford junior defenseman Chris Duffy, a co-captain from nearby Abington, said the event was special to him.
“It’s great because we have our families out here and it’s for a good cause,” he said. “We know the real reason why we are here.”
Binghamton’s Nick Colleluori recipient, junior midfielder TJ DiSanto, had two big reasons to appreciate the message of the HEADstrong Foundation. Both his parents were diagnosed with cancer in 2009; his father is in remission from colon cancer and his mother is still fighting Medullary Thyroid Cancer.
“It was awesome hearing Nick’s story; I can’t imagine what they have been through,” he said. “Both my parents were diagnosed and I really appreciate the things they are doing.
“I think hearing you have cancer is something you can’t imagine and it’s incredibly hard to take it. To make it into something good, which obviously he has done, kudos to that guy. I wish I had the chance to meet him in person. He did everything right and he set the groundwork into something incredible here.”