Alexis Leighton Runs for A Reason With Team HEADstrong

By: Jennifer Hoffman

Alexis Leighton was introduced to the HEADstrong Foundation in the most upfront way possible: her Villanova Lacrosse teammate Kathleen O’Connor was diagnosed with cancer. As most teams do, the women’s lacrosse team rallied behind their teammate and provided a support system like no other. 

Throughout her battle with cancer, Kathleen developed a very strong relationship with HEADstrong, meaning that even years later the Foundation is engraved in the Villanova Women’s lacrosse program. 

Alexis, a recent graduate of the university, is currently pursuing an accelerated BSN at NYU, and although she is busy with classes, she still devotes time to improving her physical and mental well-being, using Team HEADstrong as the vehicle.

Her first HEADstrong event was during her junior year where her team played in a game devoted to the HEADstrong Foundation, where proceeds from ticket sales and fundraising benefited HEADstrong.The team also participated in the various 5ks throughout the year and most recently ran in the #LastShift2020 Virtual 5k Challenge this past April. 

Throughout her lacrosse career, Leighton largely considered running as a form of punishment; but now as a young adult in the working world, she looks at the activity differently. “Since graduating it’s become more of a privilege to me to be able to run. There are so many people you run for that can’t run themselves and that’s the point,” she said.

“Having Kathleen as a teammate, I remember her first run test back after cancer treatment, and she was beating me! It was awesome to see her want to run on her first day back, and she gave it her all. She beat all of us who were still training hard and she beat us after cancer. It was eye opening,” remarked Alexis.

Team HEADstrong is the perfect avenue for current and former college athletes, or adults who are looking to channel their competitive spirit for the greater good. Through a variety of events including 5k’s and strength training, members of Team HEADstrong are able to better themselves all while raising awareness and funds for the cancer community. You can even utilize endurance races that you already have on the books to join Team HEADstrong. Having a distinct cause and community counting on you helps your motivation and encourages you to complete the goals you set for yourself. 

For Alexis, she’s able to continue to spread the mission of HEADstrong to every new Villanova women’s lacrosse player so that they know they can play for a bigger purpose and make every shift count. 

“You get the best of both worlds, you get to help a lot of people and raise awareness for a great organization and you get to run and better yourself. You get to run on behalf of those who you are inspired by and you get to physically improve yourself in the process of it. Being able to put my drive and competitiveness into a good cause is the best of both worlds,” said Alexis.

If you want to join Team HEADstrong, you can! Please visit for more information or email Jeff Baxter at [email protected]