By Patti Shields | 7/31/14 11:45 AM
Over the past few years, the MLL has worked with the HEADstrong Foundation in their fight against blood cancer. This year, the League, together with HEADstrong and with the support of Warrior, has started “Burn Cancer” Awareness Week, designed to draw attention toward HEADstrong and their efforts to combat the financial and emotional burdens of blood cancer.
Held July 31st-August 2nd, Burn Cancer Week will feature games from all eight League teams. During games, coaches will be sporting lime green shirts, all players will wear lime green shoelaces, and select players will use lime green Warrior gear from the Relentless27 line. Lime green is the National Awareness Color of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and will be donned by MLL representatives to represent and raise awareness for patients, researchers and survivors of the disease.
During the games played this week, over 20 players will be sporting Warrior gear designed for the HEADstrong foundation, which can also be found in Warrior’s Relentless27 product line, created in honor of founder Nicholas Colleluori who wore #27 during his time at Hofstra University. Players include Kevin Buchanan, 2014 HEADstrong spokesman, Joel White, Jeremy Sieverts, Rob Pannell, Matt Danowski, and others from across all eight League teams.
From his hospital bed in 2006, Nicholas Colleluori began to design what would later become the HEADstrong Foundation. At age 19, Nick was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a blood cancer that he relentlessly fought for the next 14 months. Immediately, Nick recognized the financial and emotional strain placed on families and patients of blood cancer, and wanted to help others in their fight. HEADstrong now is located on the outskirts of Philadelphia, PA, and its mission is to improve the quality of life for those affected by cancer, specifically blood cancer, and to help those working to eliminate the disease.
HF provides a variety of services to patients and their families. The first is financial support, where $.90 of each dollar raised by the Foundation goes to services and financial grants that are distributed nation wide. Nick’s House, located in Philadelphia, provides complimentary living accommodations for patients and families traveling for specialized cancer treatments. HEADtable provides meals and entertainment to patients and their families at local hospitals in order to help improve morale while patients go through treatment. And finally is the creation of HEAD2head, peer-to-peer support groups connecting current patients to survivors.
The MLL has been a consistent supporter of the HEADstrong foundation, through which many of our players have gotten involved. Boston’s Paul Rabil was the first player spokesperson for HF, a trend that has continued in past years. CJ Costabile and Ken Clausen have also been spokespeople for the Foundation, in addition to Kevin Buchanan who was the spokesperson for 2013’s Shoot For A Cure. Ken Clausen is also the founder of Lacrosse Mustache Madness; a fall fundraising campaign that since it’s creation in 2009 has helped to raise over $400,000 for the HEADstrong Foundation. This year, Rochester’s Joel White is the Foundation’s player spokesperson, becoming the lead contact between the MLL and HEADstrong, and helping to promote the work the foundation has been doing. Next year, White will pass the title to Ohio’s rookie, Tom Schreiber.
The support for HEADstrong does not end with these faces. Colleluori has a variety of friends and former teammates within the league, all of whom are actively supporting his foundation and legacy. Boston’s Kyle Sweeney is a longtime family friend of the Colleluori, who continues to support HF and their message.
“I know the family very closely, and grew up close to them. I love seeing that the MLL supports HEADstrong. It’s great to show that this is a brotherhood, and it doesn’t matter what team you play for, but that we’re going through life together. It’s great to see community support its own community.”
Rattlers attackman Kevin Leveille is another friend of the family, who is happy to see such a positive message spread throughout the lacrosse world. “I never met Nick personally, but through meeting and working with his family what I know of him is that he was all about doing the right thing and doing it the right way. He set a great example as a young man to have a great focus on life, and that’s why so many people are involved and why HEADstrong is so important.”
Nick’s positive attitude is only part of his legacy, which is carried on by a number of his former teammates still playing in the League. Among these are New York’s Drew Adams, Greg Gurenlian, Kevin Unterstein, Michael Unterstein and Ohio’s Bill McGlone. New York’s Steven DeNapoli is not only a former Hofstra University teammate of Nick’s, but also one of few players selected by his alma mater to wear 27, Colleluori’s former jersey number.
“I played at Hofstra and wore 27 just like Nick, and being only one of a few people to have said that in their lives is something that can’t be measured in a snapshot, or can’t be measured by votes or awards. It’s a special honor that I’ll live with for the rest of my life.”
During the duration of “Burn Cancer” Week, an estimated 1,400 people will be diagnosed with a blood cancer. While blood cancer may not be cured over night, friend Kevin Unterstein hopes that “Nick's determination, story, and legacy continue to inspire players, coaches and families alike.”
For more information on The HEADstrong Foundation and getting involved, visit www.headstrong.org. Don’t forget to join in the social conversation by using the hashtag #BurnCancer