PHILADELPHIA, PA – On Memorial Day weekend, the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Championship wasn’t the only major lacrosse event happening in the City of Brotherly Love.

The Philippines Lacrosse National team, ranked No. 10 in the world by the FIL, competed in the men’s division of the Heritage Cup against teams from across the world. These teams included Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Lithuania, Israel, Poland, and Puerto Rico.

One thing that separated the Philippines from other teams competing that weekend were the lime green laces they were wearing.

“HEADstrong we heard about back in 2014. Pat, one of the founding members, approached us in Denver at the World Games and asked us if we could support the Foundation by wearing the shoelaces. It’s a great cause and we’re going to support them this weekend,” said Justin Manjares, Director of International Affairs for the Philippines Lacrosse Association.

Kirk Ventiquattro, the Head Coach for the Philippines Lacrosse National Team, said, “HEADstrong means that there are people out there who care and who are trying to spread the message and raise awareness for the fight against cancer.”

The mission of the HEADstrong Foundation hit home for Ventiquattro, who said, “I myself am a cancer survivor – I’ll be taking treatments for the rest of my life, I have Stage 4 Prostate Cancer. July 13th will mark my eighth year.”

Philippines goalie AJ Beck said that he had seen the lime green bracelets and laces growing up through the lacrosse community.

Beck said, “It’s more than just a game. There’s a whole deeper meaning behind wearing the laces. My grandmother died of pancreatic cancer, and I recently just lost my mom, so it means a lot to wear the laces and remember that you’re always playing for something bigger than yourself.”

Maruh Legaspi, a midfielder for the Philippines team, said, “I think what HEADstrong is doing is very important, especially because people spend so much money on medications and surgeries. HEADstrong is doing a really good job of spreading awareness.”

Beck said, “At the international level, most people don’t know about the HEADstrong Foundation. Spreading HEADstrong on the international level will help bring a better image of lacrosse to the whole world knowing that you’re playing more than just a game and that it’s for a better cause.”

Ventiquattro added, “Any time that you have a chance to spread the message of cancer awareness and raising money for those affected by cancer, it’s ultimately very important. To do it on an international level would be an even bigger thing to hope for. The more people we can get involved in fighting the fight, the better chance we have of finding a cure.”

“Supporting HEADstrong is important for us because we have to raise awareness to help out families who are affected by cancer. Unfortunately, cancer is one of the biggest things in the world that leads to death, so we have to do our part and help out whoever is in need,” Manjares said.

The Philippines won their opening matchup against Poland 10-4 on Saturday. On Sunday, they defeated Israel 7-3, but fell to Greece, 8-2. They rallied and took down Puerto Rico 8-1 later that afternoon to secure a place in the championship. Ultimately, the Philippines team lost the championship game against Greece, 5-3.

The Philippines Lacrosse team has solidified their position on the international lacrosse stage in the past few years. In 2014, they became the 50th member of the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL). In 2018 at the FIL World Championship in Netanya, Israel, the Philippines defeated No. 6 Scotland, No. 14 Czech Republic, No. 15 Switzerland, No. 18 Italy, and No. 27 Belgium, before falling to No. 9 Germany in the ninth-place game.

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,​ www.HEADstrong.org​. 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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