Contact: Pat Colleluori
The Man Behind Nick’s House
How Pat Colleluori’s Encounter With A Family Living In Their Car Inspired The Creation Of Nick’s House
HOLMES, PA – After working a grueling 10-hour day and sitting in gridlocked traffic, an exhausted Pat Colleluori Sr. prepared dinner for his family and trekked back to the hospital to relieve his wife Cheryl and be by the bedside of his ailing son Nicholas, who was battling non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. And while this may sound extreme, this was just another day in the life of a devoted parent caring for his family through cancer. A 45-day inpatient stay during Nicholas’ autologous transplant, presented some of the most trying days for Colleluori family but a chance encounter with another family dealing with a very similar situation helped to shed light on just how fortunate the Colleluori’s were.
While walking into the hospital with his family’s dinner in his hands, Pat saw a familiar face standing in line to pay for parking. The man was another parent who was caring for his daughter on the same floor that Nicholas was receiving treatment on. The man seemed exhausted and distraught and so Pat stopped to talk. Both men were living a very similar situation; their children were both sick and inpatient for a transplant, however there was one distinct difference. The Colleluori’s lived just 8 miles from the hospital, however the man and his family traveled more than 500 miles one-way to pursue treatment. The man asked Pat Sr., where he may be able to get a shower, admitting that he and his wife were living out of their car while their daughter received her transplant. The overwhelming medical debt had forced his family into a financially toxic situation. After rounds of unsuccessful treatment locally, they came to Philadelphia hoping that specialized treatment would save their child. The Colleluori’s too were falling on hard financial times with Cheryl taking an unpaid leave of absence from her job as Nicholas’ situation intensified. With an empty bedroom at their house, the Colleluori’s extended an invitation to the family to use the available room for the remainder of their daughter’s treatment schedule. Pat Sr. began to encounter many other families in similar situations and despite where they were from it was financial constraints that played in large role in their treatment destinations.
Meeting this family and learning of their unfortunate reality had a profound impact on Pat Sr. Baring witness to a family living out of the car while their loved one underwent cancer treatment shed light on a major problem facing the patient population; specifically the lengths that a family will go to for a loved one. The irony is that less than 3 months later the Colleluori family would be displaced to Bethesda, Maryland in an attempt to qualify Nicholas for a clinical trial, which was unsuccessful. Tragically, Nicholas passed away in his father’s arms on November 28th, 2006 after a 14-month battle with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. But before his passing asked his parents to see his vision of HEADstrong into fruition. It is this promise that continues to fuel the relentless efforts of the HEADstrong Foundation.
In wake of losing his son Nicholas, Pat Sr. channeled his grief into projects addressing the lack of available support and resources for families affected and traveling to the region for treatment. Pulling from his personal encounter with that father/caregiver living out of his car, Pat Sr. conceptualized Nick’s House; a guest family home which would provide complimentary lodging and support for families displaced to the region pursuing comprehensive cancer care.
Just a few blocks away from the Colleluori’s home, stood a dilapidated building in need to much repair. And many questioned the reality of turning this vacant property into HEADstrong’s future home, Pat Sr. saw potential, so much so that he and his wife Cheryl, mortgaged their own home, to see the project come to life.
The project was intense with the renovations requiring a full tare out and a construction design that entailed rebuilding an office, a warehouse and lodging accommodations for 2 families. Pat Sr. took the lead on the project, working closely with construction partners and soliciting industrial supply support. For Pat Sr. this project was a labor of love and therapeutic on so many levels. Over the course of one full year, Pat Sr. and a crew of dedicated construction crew restored the 2-story property located in Holmes, PA. On September 27th, 2011, the Colleluori family proudly cut the ribbon at Nick’s House and began welcoming families to the region.
Over the past 6 years, Nick’s House proudly presented by the HEADstrong Foundation has operated at 100% occupancy, serving families from more than 18 states and providing more than 2,555 complimentary nights of lodging and support. Nick’s House has become one of HEADstrong’s marquee services and its overwhelming need inspired Nick’s House Swarthmore which was recently dedicated on December 11th, 2017.
About HEADstrong Foundation
In 2005, Nicholas Colleluori, a lacrosse player at Hofstra University was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Colleluori was a Division I lacrosse player entering his sophomore year at Hofstra University when he was terminally diagnosed with cancer. His public fight from the sidelines captivated the nation and from his hospital bed he created an organization focused on empowering student-athletes to improve lives affected by the disease. His vision was simple yet critical; helping real families when they needed it most, providing support so that families may live with a greater dignity and normalcy. Colleluori fought to improve the inpatient experience, the affordability and accessibility of care and tackled the general concerns facing the patient population. Understanding the ripple effect and impact that a cancer diagnosis had on a family, Colleluori championed efforts to support caregivers and capital projects to improve accommodations. He built an awareness platform driven by lime green shoelaces, the national awareness color for non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He empowered his own family and in the last days of his life asked them to pick up the ball where he left off. Nicholas lost his valiant battle on November 28th, 2006 but his legacy of toughness and determination lives on in the HEADstrong Foundation. Since 2007, HEADstrong has raised more than $11.5 million supporting more than 15,000 families across the country. For more on the HEADstrong Foundation please visit www.HEADstrong.org.