Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 10/27/17
From Lehigh Lacrosse
The Lehigh men’s lacrosse program recently wrapped up its fall competition. They fought hard on the field, and they fought just as hard off the field… in the fight against cancer.
Earlier this month, the Mountain Hawks competed at the HEADstrong Foundation’s Nicholas Colleluori Classic at Hofstra University with the goal of beating their opponents, while also helping beat cancer. In the end, Lehigh more than quadrupled its initial fundraising goal of $3,000 by raising $13,339 for as part of HEADstrong’s 2017 “Go Lime” campaign. It was the most money raised by any team or group of teams in the entire campaign.
“I am so proud of the Lehigh Lacrosse family for stepping up in a huge way for this fundraiser,” said Lehigh head coach Kevin Cassese. “The lacrosse world is full of great people and very generous people… Our Lehigh Lacrosse family is a microcosm of that.”
This year’s Colleluori Classic was just the latest of several events with philanthropy at its roots. Nicholas “HEAD” Colleluori was a college lacrosse player, who in 2005, was terminally diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. From his hospital bed, he created an organization called HEADstrong focused on empowering student-athletes to improve lives affected by the disease. In the last days of his life, he asked his family to pick up the ball where he left off.
It’s a promise the Colleluori family continues to fulfill.
“I first met the Colleluori family while I was an assistant at Duke for John Danowski,” said Cassese. “Coach Danowski recruited and coached Colleluori while he was the head coach at Hofstra. I remember the day Nick passed away and how hard Coach Dino took the news. A couple years after I became the head coach at Lehigh, the Colleluoris reached out to see if I’d be interested in participating in the First Annual Nick Colleluori Classic at Ridley High School in Pennsylvania. That’s when the relationship between the Lehigh Lacrosse family and the Colleluori family really began to flourish.”
Since then, the Mountain Hawks have been heavily involved with HEADstrong, taking part in the Relentless Cup against Georgetown in 2014, the University City Classic at the University of Pennsylvania in 2016 and much more.
“The HEADstrong Foundation is very special because the money raised directly helps families affected by cancer, allowing them to focus on the fight against cancer and not the financial burden that comes with it,” said Mountain Hawk junior Brian Meyer, who was the teams’ top fundraiser and the second highest individual fundraiser in the Go Lime campaign (out of more than 600 participants). Meyer raised an impressive $2,624.
“Nick’s House (which provides complimentary lodging for out-of-town patients and their families who are undergoing cancer-related treatment in the Philadelphia area) is an amazing idea that keeps families together during cancer treatment they’re enduring,” continued Meyer. “Growing up outside of Philadelphia, the HEADstrong Foundation was always very well known in the lacrosse community and I am very proud to support such a remarkable foundation.”
The term “relentless” has been associated with Nick Colleluori in his personal fight against cancer and with the Colleluori family’s fight against the disease and for all those affected by it.
“Relentless is what Nick and the Colleluori family have always been about. It’s the right way to live life,” said Cassese. “In my life, I have tried to always work with relentless effort and I have also tried to surround myself with people who are relentless competitors in the game of lacrosse, and in the game of life.”
Cassese has certainly done just that. The people around him came through in a big way in the HEADstrong fundraising campaign.
“We compete in everything we do and Coach Cassese explained how this was just another opportunity to do so, by raising more money that the other teams competing in the campaign,” said Meyer. “We set a requirement of $75 per person, everyone raised that amount and many raised well over that. It just shows that as a team, we really cared about this campaign.”
“The players are the ones who initiated this monumental fundraising effort,” said Cassese. “Multiply $75 of donations by 48 players and we would be assured of surpassing the original $3,000 fundraising goal. The players took it and ran with it, until they surpassed $13,000.”
The Mountain Hawks eclipsed $13,000, but the fight against cancer is far from over. Just like in the game of lacrosse, winning a game is an immediate goal, but there are always bigger goals to continually strive for.
“Along this incredible journey we have had the privilege and pleasure of fostering some amazing relationships with collegiate programs across the country and Lehigh University is among the most significant,” said Cheryl Colleluori, Nick’s Mom and President of HEADstrong Foundation. “The relentless efforts of the Mountain Hawks this fall have raised the bar and have been exemplary. The funds raised will be instrumental in allowing HEADstrong to strengthen our commitment to families impacted by cancer.
“We consider Lehigh men’s lacrosse a partner in the fight,” Colleluori continued. “From participation in our fall events series to hosting events on campus, Lehigh continues to champion our Nick’s vision, carrying the ball where he left off. It starts with Coach Cassese, who truly embodies the spirit of our Nick and has woven our cause into the fabric of his program. His commitment to family and serving the greater good has resonated with his players and their families.
“It is truly humbling to have Lehigh men’s lacrosse involved and we wish to extend our sincere appreciation and gratitude to helping us get aHEAD of cancer.”