By BARBARA ORMSBY
RIDLEY TOWNSHIP – A sea of lime green flooded the streets around the Amosland Elementary School neighborhood Friday as more than 600 students, teachers, staff and parents walked to raise money for the HEADstrong Foundation.
Nick “Head” Colleluori, a lacrosse standout at Ridley High School and Hofstra University, attended Amosland as a child. He was just 21 when he died of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Before his death he started the foundation that bears his name to raise funds for research and to help patients with blood-cancer disorders, and their families faced with financial burdens. The foundation has raised more than $5 million over the past five years and last fall marked the opening of Nick’s House in the Holmes section where patients and their families from around the country can stay at no charge while treatment is under way. Right now a family from Colorado is staying at Nick’s House, which can accommodate two families at a time.
Jen Gavin, physical education teacher at Amosland, organizes the annual walks. Wearing her lime green T-shirt – the official color of HEADstrong – she was in front of the stage in the school’s multi-purpose room for the rally that preceded the walk, looking out at those assembled before her and commenting that the shirts bore the number “27” on the back, which was Nick’s number when he played lacrosse, and the word “relentless,” symbolizing the way the young man fought the disease for 14 months before it finally took him from this life. She spoke of being a substitute teacher at Ridley and having Nick as a student.
“Nick was a kid you never had to worry about,” she said.
Gavin said more than 600 lime green shirts were sold this year and lime green foot cutouts with various sayings on them line the corridor from the school entrance to the multi-purpose room.
Principal John Theodosiades gave the children some dos and donts to remember while they were on the one-mile walk, which takes them past the Colleluori home. All four Colleluori sons attended Amosland.
“Remember, you are walking through a neighborhood,” he said. “Be courteous and don’t throw any trash … celebrate the HEADstrong Foundation and all that Nick stood for.”
The principal called for 27 seconds of silence in Nick’s memory. One kindergartner stood with his hand over his heart and his head bowed.
Pat Colleluori stood with his hand on his wife’s Cheryl’s shoulder as several children read tributes to their son and she wiped tears from her eyes as a film on previous walks was shown.
“Wow, wow, wow. This is incredible,” Cheryl said as she spoke briefly to the assembly. “This is our ‘home.’ Nick sat right where you are sitting. It is so wonderful.” Cheryl said the Ridley Community YMCA offered the use of its facilities and child care to the families who stay at Nick’s House.
At 2 p.m., the doors of the multi-purpose room opened and the walk began, with many children carrying signs and banners to let the neighborhood know why they were walking.