Survivor & International Tower Climber Sally Kalksma To Receive The Nicholas E. Colleluori Award at 8th Annual Lime Light Gala, March 9

The HEADstrong Foundation is proud to present the eighth annual Lime Light Gala on Friday, March 9 at the Hilton Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing. Held annually to recognize groundbreaking achievements and stories of hope while remembering those who have lost their fight, the Gala strives to help families affected by cancer. Click here for event details and click here to purchase tickets or to help sponsor the event.


Sally Kalksma has every reason to be cynical toward the world and life in general.

It’s not fair that her husband passed away from melanoma, one of a whopping seven types of cancer that he dealt with over the course of his lifetime. It’s not right that she’s had to deal with cancer herself, battling multiple myeloma, cancer of the plasma cells. Kalksma has every reason to be pessimistic and cast life in a negative view.

Instead, she’s done exactly the opposite. It doesn’t take long for her to show that she’s one of the most positive people you’ll find yourself around, always finding the bright side of things and preaching that there’s too much to live for to be down.

“Why waste time and sit back?” Kalksma asked. “Life is too short. Cancer is just a little blip, it’s not who I am. You can walk outside and get hit by a bus. You can’t waste time because the mind controls the body. If I dwell on only negative things, my brain is going to only send out negative receptors to my body and I’m not going to do well. Negative people aren’t successful. They’re positive about everything in their lives. They have to deal with negatives, but don’t dwell on it. Make a change.”

Kalksma made a significant change after her husband’s passing. When she went back to work full-time, she’d bring her sneakers and run stairs during her lunch break. In 2012, she got involved with the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, which held automatic bids into the prestigious Empire State Building Run-Up. The Run-Up, the oldest race of its kind in the world, is just like it sounds: competitors battle the clock and others and race up the stairs to the top of the building, where they’re greeted by a sprawling, and breathtaking view of New York City.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Kalksma said. “I said I would never do it again, so of course, next year, when they asked me, I did it again.”

Kalksma got so good at running those steps that she quickly earned an international ranking by the Towerrunning World Association. It was after that that she learned of her cancer diagnosis, seven years into her running career. She needed a year to battle the disease and recover, where she found out more about The HEADstrong Foundation when she saw the story of Nick Colleluori on one of the bulletin boards.

Colleluori, HEADstrong’s founder, heroically battled blood cancer until his passing in 2006. It was his resolve during his fight that was most impressive, where he worried less about himself and more about what he could do for others. That story struck a chord with Kalksma, and from there, she had the opportunity to learn about everything that HEADstrong does.

“When I saw Nick’s picture and started reading his story, it touched me because I had cancer, but also because I have to two children,” Kalksma said. “The next week was Valentine’s Day and HEADstrong was hosting an ice cream social, which I thought was just so sweet. Someone told me that HEADstrong wanted to be in touch with me, and I was just so honored.”

Kalksma will receive the prestigious Nicholas E. Colleluori Award at the eighth annual Lime Light Gala on Friday, March 9 at the Hilton Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing. The Gala strives to help families affected by cancer and recognizes groundbreaking achievements and stories of hope, while also paying tribute to those who have lost their fight against cancer. Click here for event details and click here to purchase tickets or to help sponsor the event.

“Sally Kalksma is an incredible inspiration to everyone. Her positive, upbeat attitude toward the fight against cancer and life in general is something that everyone should strive to match,” said Cheryl Colleluori, HEADstrong President and Nick’s mom. “She embodies so many of the same characteristics that Nick did, and because of that, we are proud to name her the recipient of the Nicholas E. Colleluori Award.”

“I’m absolutely flabbergasted and so honored to receive the Nicholas E. Colleluori Award,” Kalksma said. “I’ve received other honors before, but nothing like this. This really hits home for me.”

Last year at this time, Kalksma was in the hospital after receiving a stem cell transplant. The day after the Lime Light Gala, she will fly to Paris to take part in the Eiffel Tower Vertical, where she will be the only American person – man or woman – to compete. She’s an accomplished running veteran now, with races up the Willis Tower and Comcast Building, among others, but this will be a first.

Of course, that wouldn’t be enough for someone with Kalksma’s spirit. It’s only fitting that she’s also writing a book, entitled “Life Gets in the Way”, which takes a comedic look at adversity in life.

“It’s about being positive when bad things hit,” Kalksma said. “I had Multiple Myeloma, but it didn’t have me. I took it and turned it around, and that’s what you have to do with adverse situations.”


For more information on the HEADstrong Foundation please visit


About HEADstrong Foundation

The HEADstrong Foundation is a non-profit organization committed to improving lives affected by cancer. HEADstrong was founded by Nicholas Colleluori, a Division I athlete 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. It’s a promise that the Colleluori family continues to fulfill through the essential programs and services offered by the HEADstrong Foundation, HEADstrong invests more than $.90 of every dollar into a service offering 100% committed to improving the quality of life for families affected by cancer. HEADstrong grants financial assistance, funds projects to improve the inpatient experience, provides meals and outlets of entertainment, delivers comfort kits, peer support and most notably operates Nick’s House™, a haven of comfort for families seeking comprehensive cancer care.


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