Thousands watch as 4th annual Nick Colleluori Classic continues to spread its message

By Chris Goldberg
Saturday, 9th October 2010

NCC Relentless 27

Thousands of lacrosse followers packed Ridley High today in the Division I competition (10 teams) at the 4th annual Nick Colleluori Classic, a men’s Fall Ball event that is expected to raise at least $150,000 in the fight against blood cancer.

The event celebrates the life of Nick Colleluori, a former Ridley lacrosse and football great who died four years ago despite a lengthy fight against Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma while a student-athlete at Hofstra University.

The HEADstrong Foundation, created by Colleluori, dedicated the event to two more fallen heroes – Bellarmine head coach Jack McGetrick, who died early in the morning after a two-year fight against prostate cancer (see accompanying story here); and Robert Alan Michaliszyn, a devoted volunteer for the Classic.

The teams participating today included Philly squads Lehigh, St. Joseph’s and Villanova. They were joined by Cornell, Detroit Mercy, Hofstra, Fairfield, Mount St. Mary’s, Presbyterian and Towson.

The two-day event continues Sunday with 10 more Division II and Division III teams – mostly from the Philadelphia region – playing two games each, beginning at 9:30 a.m. Squads competing will include Division II Chestnut Hill College and Division III teams Cabrini, Eastern, Immaculata, Neumann, Penn State Abington, Stockton State, Ursinus, Wesley and Widener.

HEADstrong President Cheryl Colleluori, Nick’s mother, gave her usual pull-at-the-heart speech during a presentation to all the fans as well as teams, who huddled in the center of the football field where Colleluori starred for many years.

She said that instead of her son fighting blood cancer “as a career path, it became his legacy. Our challenge is to fulfill his dream.”

The event this weekend also recognizes all who have fought cancer. Each team sold t-shirts to raise money for the event and had an honorary captain – someone who has had to deal with a life-threatening cancer. One of the persons involved in the event – Mount St. Mary’s head coach Tom Gravante – is a survivor of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and a living testament to the fight being made by the HEADstrong Foundation.

More than $500,000 has already been raised by the HEADstrong Foundation for blood cancer treatment and research and awareness. More than 100 volunteers helped run the tournament and all referees are donating their time this weekend.

One of the volunteers was Michaliszyn, 47, who passed away Sept. 25 while on his way to the Nick Colleluori Women’s Classic a Hofstra due to a heart attack. Michaliszyn was the stepfather of Nick Colleluori’s fiancée.

Colleluori said that the Michaliszyn’s dedication and example was a testament to the message started by her son and followed by the many volunteers as well as the lacrosse community.

“It is bigger and better than ever and it’s running so smoothly,” said Colleluori. “More and more people are getting it and seeing the bigger picture and the greater cause. It’s an awesome feeling.” Hofstra coach Seth Tierney – whose team has come all four years to the Classic and now helps out at the Nick Colleluori Women’s Classic – said the event is a special occasion for his players.

“I am so humbled and warmed by what this (event) has become,” Tierney said. “I’m speechless; it’s an unbelievable day.
“Every year we go to the cemetery (where Nick is buried) the morning of the games and everybody gets a rose and says something nice and we do a huddle with Nick. Then we go play for him. It’s turned into a wonderful, wonderful tradition.

“For the (new players) coming in, we have a video on the TV so they can meet Nick. He becomes part of their lives and that’s what we need to happen because he was an unbelievable person.”