Building a Team of Champions to Combat Blood Cancer
How has blood cancer affected me?
My name is John Jiloty, vice president of Inside Lacrosse and a fan and supporter of the Colleluori family and the HEADStrong Foundation since 2007. I can honestly say I’ve never been more moved by a story I’ve worked on than this one. What HEADStrong has accomplished in barely three years is staggering.
I’ve covered a host of different stories and met 1000s of people in my decade-plus journalism career, but I’ve never been more moved, more affected by a story than the Colleluoris’.
My first meeting with the family was nothing short of amazing. Myself and three video camera crew members working with me for a segment that would run on Inside Lacrosse’s Spring 2007 show on ESPN2 showed up to their house on a dreary Sunday afternoon. I had never met any of the family members in person before and had no idea what to expect. Nick Colleluori had passed away two months prior (to the day), so some random stranger asking prying questions with a giant TV camera might not exactly be the most pleasant experience. (When it first came up as a story idea, I feared that the timing was bad and it was too soon to even explore further.)
Before the cameras were even set up, I walked in, sat down and looked up at 10 people staring back at me. I think I asked one question, and for the next hour the conversation batted back and forth between everyone in the room, the ball never touching the ground. They talked about how inspiring Nick was and has continued to be, the horrible experience of watching his 14-month battle with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, the stories of him as an undersized high school nose guard paving guys twice his size, how he worked his way onto Hofstra’s man-down unit as a freshman, his amazing attitude through the hellish radiation process, his big plans for setting up the HEADStrong Foundation.
The emotion and the reverence with which the Colleluoris and their friends spoke of Nick – not to mention how shaken Hofstra coaches Seth Tierney and Joe Amplo were the next day when we interviewed them on Long Island – speaks volumes about Head’s impact on everyone he met.
A few weeks later I wrote an article for Inside Lacrosse Magazine and put together the TV segment about Nick and his little brother Michael, then a sophomore for the Pride, and the family and the foundation they were starting. I’m not lying or exaggerating when I say that I literally teared up multiple times as I was trying to write the content. (Same thing happened three years later as I re-read what I wrote and thought back to the experience.)
What the Colleluori family has accomplished since then is nothing short of amazing. Every time I run into Micheal, Pat, Pat, Dan and Cheryl, and anyone else associated with the HEADStrong Foundation, I’m blown away by the latest chapter of progress. To think that this has all happened in barely three years is staggering.
I never met Nick, and that’s something I truly regret. But I’ve spoken to enough people to know that HEADStrong’s accomplishments can best be explained through Nick and the never-give-up attitude with which he attacked everything he did. The giant RELENTLESS tattoo Michael has stretching across his back couldn’t sum it up more perfectly.
I am truly inspired by the HEADStrong Foundation, and what they’re doing in Nick’s honor. And I think his accomplishments, and maybe more importantly, his attitude are things that everyone can learn from.
Even as he was undergoing those horrific chemo treatments, he was more worried about how his family and friends were doing. Even as he was dying, he was more worried about creating a legacy that would carry on and help other cancer patients long after he was gone.
Nick’s family and friends are tremendously proud of what he accomplished in his 21 years. I think it’s safe to say he’s proud of them as well.