Lime Green Shoelaces Continue To Fuel HEADstrong Movement
By: Pat Colleluori
While enduring a 45-day inpatient stay at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania to undergo an autologous stem cell transplant, HEADstrong founder Nicholas “HEAD” Colleluori began to strategize and develop an awareness item to unite athletes in the fight against cancer. Colleluori sought inspiration from a pair of shoes that sat by his bedside. For someone who had been battling non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma for over 12 months and had been quarantined for the past 45 days, Colleluori dreamed of the chance to take the lacrosse field and live a “normal” life once again. He asked his mother for his shoes and began to lace them up. He sat up in the bed and stared out the window of the 6th floor hospital room and gazed out onto the campus of the University of Pennsylvania.
“What are you doing?” his mother Cheryl asked. Nick replied “I am taking a walk in my mind.” Below him was the hustle and bustle of a college campus, with students going off into many directions. Some of them were heading to class, some heading to the dorms, the dining hall and some were heading to practice, much like Colleluori did at Hofstra University. At only 19, Colleluori was faced with great odds against the disease and as he thought about it, he realized that he was one of the youngest patients on his floor. Rather than wallow in pity or fear, Colleluori used his youthful spirit as motivation for making a difference for those who would follow in his shoes.
“Mom, can you hand me your notepad?” Nick asked. Being a caregiver to her son, Cheryl’s notepad was her lifeline. It was where she kept journal entries, her son’s vitals, his treatment schedule, nurse rotation and questions for his doctors. Nick ripped a blank page from the notebook and began to sketch the idea that sparked the HEADstrong Foundation. Shoelaces!
Colleluori wanted to tie people to the cause and the shoelaces were the perfect item to do it. He envisioned athletes, teams, supporters and survivors from across the country purchasing and proudly lacing up to fund essential programs focused on helping families navigate their cancer. The lime green laces would signify the awareness color for non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and he believed that the vibrancy of the color would aid in visibility and awareness.
Nicholas spent the last months of his life relentlessly constructing the framework of the HEADstrong Foundation. The organization would be anchored by lime green HEADstrong shoelaces which have become a primary awareness platform and a universal symbol of hope and love within the athletic community. Sadly, Colleluori lost his courageous battle against the disease on November 28, 2006, he was just 21.
As the 2007 collegiate men’s lacrosse season drew near, then Drexel University men’s lacrosse coach Chris Bates approached the Colleluori family about taking the field in the shoelaces for their first televised home game against the University of Virginia. With the game being nationally televised against the #1 ranked Virginia Cavaliers, who were defending their national title, this was arguably the biggest moment in Drexel Lacrosse history. Just as Colleluori predicted, the vibrancy of the lime green laces intrigued and excited commentators, spectators and viewers alike. Drexel went on to stun Virginia in a thrilling 11-10 victory marking the biggest win in school history. The Drexel Dragons slaying the Virginia Cavaliers became one of the biggest headlines in college sports and the public began to ask, “Why was Drexel wearing these lime green shoelaces?”, and just as Colleluori predicted, word began to circulate about the HEADstrong Foundation.
Today, HEADstrong’s shoelaces are revered as a symbol of hope and strength uniting athletes, survivors and supporters to be relentless in the fight against cancer. HEADstrong shoelaces have and continue to be worn by athletes and teams worldwide. Proceeds from HEADstrong’s shoelaces support the essential services provided by the organization on behalf of families overcome by cancer.
Click here, to purchase your pair of HEADstrong shoelaces. To learn more about the HEADstrong Foundation and how you can get involved please visit www.HEADstrong.org or follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @HEADstrongFnd.