SYRACUSE, New York – While many heads hung in disappointment concluding Syracuse’s dramatic 15-16 loss to John Hopkins in the 2015 NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Quarterfinals at Navy-Marine Corp Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland, senior midfielder Nicky Galasso held his head high as he played his last collegiate game. In the seconds following the game Galasso looked to the heavens and blew a kiss to his mother Cindy, something that he has done since his very first game. Galasso reflected on his past and how much the game of lacrosse meant to him and his family. It was on the lacrosse field that he learned so much about life. He thought about the first time he held a lacrosse stick and how the game helped him and his family mend in the wake of the untimely passing of their mother/wife Cindy to a battle with cancer. Galasso was comforted by the thought that through it all that his mother’s spirit helped guide and motivate him to achieve success both on and off the playing field.
Nicky was just 12 years old when he lost his mother Cindy to a battle with a brain tumor and lung cancer. “Losing my mother at such a young age was definitely something that caused me to grow up quick. The unfortunate circumstances brought me and my family very close together. Family is everything to me. ” said Galasso
Although the loss of Cindy was devastating to the family, the six Galasso men made a pact to carry her with them. “We are each a piece of her. She would want us to carry on with life, be happy, and make our own memories,” Nicky explains.
He quickly fell into the footsteps of his four older brothers and he too found a passion for the game of lacrosse. His brothers played a significant role in his development, contributing to his mental and physical toughness as well as his competiveness. The Galasso name was well known throughout the Long Island lacrosse community, but Nicky turned heads being named the top high school recruit in the Class of 2010 by Inside Lacrosse and the accolades amounted including a 2010 Under Armour All-America selection, Three-time high school All-American, NewsdayLong Island Player of the Year, Two-time Empire State Games team member, MSG Player of the Year honoree, Two-time state championship game MVP. During his time at West Islip, Galasso became the All-time leading scorer in Long Island history with 500 points and was a member of four New York State, Long Island and county championship teams and led the team to a No. 1 national ranking in 2007.
At West Islip the boy’s lacrosse team honored Cindy Galasso before every game by drawing the initials C.G. on their calves and in college Nicky permanently memorialized his mother having her initials tattooed on his calf.
Despite the victories and the accolades Galasso met his fair share of challenges and obstacles while playing lacrosse collegiately. Nicky attended the University of North Carolina and shortly into his freshman season was sidelined due to a break in his fifth metatarsal, an injury that occurred in his other foot less than a year later and would plague his time at UNC. In his junior year Galasso made a decision to transfer to Syracuse University and during his first season with the Orange, broke his hand. 3 years of compiling injuries took a toll on the athlete that ironically had never been injured in high school play, but Galasso stayed positive, confident and relentless. “I was just a kid and surgery was a big deal. After the second injury I had thoughts of giving up, but then I thought of my mom.” Nicky struggled, as he was unable to participate with his teammates. “I do believe when athletes are injured their lax IQ increases. I wanted to understand all the plays and drills that were ran at practice even though I couldn’t physically do them. Everything I did and continue to do is with my mom in mind.”
The injuries Galasso sustained helped give him better perspective and contributed to him becoming a more complete student athlete. The unexpected twists and turns forced Galasso to take a step back and focus on everything else in his life. And a year later, the stars aligned and Galasso was cleared to return to the field on February 22nd versus Maryland. Galasso quickly found his confidence playing in 14 games as a member of the second midfield during his junior year, totaling 17 points on 13 goals and 4 assists including 4 two-goal games. In the classroom, Galasso achieved ACC Academic Honor Roll and was a member of the SU Athletic Director’s Honor Roll both semesters.
Returning as a fifth year senior, Galasso had a special opportunity to honor his mother Cindy while participating in the 8th Annual Nicholas Colleluori Classic presented by the HEADstrong Foundation™ during the fall. It was there that Coach John Desko recognized Galasso for his relentlessness, his commitment and impact, nominating him to be the recipient of the Nicholas Colleluori Award. The award is presented annually to a member of each participating team whose contributions both on and off the field are transforming the landscape of their represented program. Galasso humbly accepted and dedicated the award to his mother. “It was an honor to have received this award. It’s amazing to see everyone coming together in the sport to support HEADstrong. Having experienced the loss of my mother to cancer, this award holds a very special place in my heart because I fully understand its meaning. I applaud HEADstrong for their commitment to helping patients and families affected by cancer. I am very proud to be apart of their family,” stated Galasso.
In his 5th and final season, Galasso now at full strength, solidified his legacy at Syracuse, playing in 16 regular season games, contributing 45 points, resulting from 36 goals and 9 assists which helped the Orange to establish a No.1 national ranking. The team met Duke in the 2015 ACC Men’s Lacrosse Championships at PPL Park in Chester, PA and captured the ACC title, winning in a 15-14 bout over the Blue Devils, in which Galasso notched 3 goals. And while winning the ACC Championship was an incredible moment for Galasso and the Orange, what transpired in the moments after the win was simply magical. Syracuse fan Rohan Jones, a 13 year old battling brain cancer, who was the guest of the HEADstrong Foundation™ was embraced by Galasso as well as the entire Syracuse men’s lacrosse team and coaching staff. Members of the team greeted Jones, presenting him with an ACC Championship hat and an official game ball in a heartwarming moment that brought tears to eyes of everyone in attendance.
“Winning the ACC Championship was an incredible experience for our team but having the ability to meet Rohan and bring a smile to his face in such a critical time in his life, was something that will stay with us forever. I can’t even begin to find the words to describe the feeling that hit us after meeting Rohan. Seeing this 13 year old that has been through so much really puts things into perspective. We wanted him to know that we had his back and that he could beat this thing.” said Galasso
Clearly Nicky Galasso’s lacrosse career has been an amazing yet emotional rollercoaster ride filled with plenty of victories and losses. Despite the challenges and hurdles he has faced, Galasso has become a mature, intelligent and motivated man ready to tackle the next chapter of his life. Galasso plans to continue playing lacrosse and hopes to add coaching to his resume. He wants to be able to share his experience with aspiring lacrosse players to help give them better perspective of the challenges and realities people are faced with. Family will always be his first priority and Cindy Galasso will forever serve as a constant source of encouragement, inspiration and love.
About HEADstrong Foundation
The HEADstrong Foundation™ is a 501(c)(3) committed to improving the quality of life for cancer patients and their families through providing essential services. HEADstrong™ is an athletic rooted organization that serves the cancer community by granting direct financial assistance to those financially impacted as a result of the disease, by providing complimentary long-term housing and amenities for those traveling to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for cancer related treatments through Nick’s House™, by funding innovative cancer research through the Nicholas E. Colleluori Lymphoma research fund, by serving family meals and offering outlets of entertainment, by providing fresh groceries to patients being discharged from lengthy hospital stays, by delivering comfort kits to newly hospitalized patients preparing for treatment or transplant, and by lending an arm of support through their peer to peer advocacy group.
The blueprints for the Foundation were conceptualized by Nicholas “HEAD” Colleluori in 2006, from his hospital bed while he underwent treatment for non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which ultimately claimed his life. Today, Nick’s vision is being fulfilled through the relentless efforts of his family, athletes and supporters across the country uniting in the fight against cancers.
For more information on the HEADstrong Foundation™ and how they are Getting aHEAD of Cancer™ go towww.HEADstrong.org.