Tyler Collins, 11, Faces Off Against Cancer

Ed Morrone

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610-461-5987 ext. 303

Tyler Collins, left, is a fifth-grader at Roosevelt School in Lyndenhurst, N.J.

As an 11-year-old in the fifth grade, Tyler Collins is learning more about real-life responsibility than most kids his age.

Collins attends the Roosevelt School in Lyndenhurst, N.J., as well as The Faceoff Academy (FOA), which teaches him how to excel in his favorite sport of lacrosse. And while Collins has certainly put his knowledge of winning faceoffs to good use on the lacrosse field — more on that in a bit — he’s gaining an entirely different perspective off it.

Not long ago, FOA and the HEADstrong Foundation announced a new partnership designed to raise funds to support the services provided by HEADstrong, by improving lives with a philanthropic activity to fulfill a community service requirement. FOA, wishing to strengthen its commitment to developing a more complete student-athlete, allowed faceoff specialists from around the country the opportunity to participate in the Face-Off Against Cancer challenge, an online fundraising effort in which athletes will track faceoff victories and use as a measure to drive pledges toward the cause.

Collins, with some guidance from his dad, Mike, has been a shining star in this campaign. At the time of this writing, he had won 47 faceoffs and raised almost $2,700 to help cancer patients in need.

“I could not be prouder of him,” Mike Collins said via a recent video chat, with Tyler seated beside him. “(FOA founder) Greg (Gurenlian) sent an email out to the parents to let us know they were going to do this to challenge the boys, and we told Tyler we think this is something he should do to learn about responsibility and helping other people. His mother’s family has been ravaged by cancer — she lost her dad and grandmother, her sister had breast cancer — so for us to be able to do something like this to give back and to let him do something he does really, really well to make money to help others, it was just an incredible opportunity for him to give back.”

Even if Tyler can’t completely wrap his young mind around the ubiquitous concept of cancer just yet, he understands enough to know he is making a major difference in the fight. He’s worn lime green shoelaces in a sign of solidarity with HEADstrong, and wanted to step up and embrace the challenge, as well as to acknowledge the role of Gurenlian (a Springfield, Pa., native who competed against HEADstrong founder Nick Colleluori in high school) in his life.

“He’s one of my role models in the sport of lacrosse,” Tyler said of Gurenlian.

Tyler has been on the lacrosse field for three years, and while he also wrestles, he called lacrosse “absolutely my favorite sport to play.” He plays year-round, and is a member of the Lyndenhurst fifth- and sixth-grade team, his current squad during spring season; Tyler also plays for Evolution Lacrosse Academy in the summer and the New Jersey Jetties during wintertime. He plays some attack, but unsurprisingly is mostly utilized as a faceoff specialist.

Above all else, Tyler feels the appreciation and support from his teammates and coaches as he takes up his part in the fight against cancer.

“My coaches are really happy that I’m doing it and have helped me work on my faceoff training during practice,” he said. “My teammates have mentioned it a couple of times and they think it’s really cool that I’m doing something to raise money for people who have cancer. They’ve been very supportive, telling me ‘good luck’ every time I go out there to take a faceoff. They’ve been patting me on the back, telling me to keep going.”

To donate to Tyler’s Faceoff Against Cancer Challenge campaign, visit https://pledgeit.org/tyler-collins-faceoff-against-cancer-challenge

The HEADstrong Foundation™ is a 501(c)3 committed to improving lives affected by cancer, founded by the late Nicholas “HEAD” Colleluori. The non-profit organization plays a vital role as a direct resource to families overcome by the hardships of cancer. HEADstrong provides a variety of services, which range from financial assistance to funding capital projects to peer mentorship and, most notably, HEADstrong operates Nick’s House™, a guest family home providing more than 2,555 nights of complimentary lodging and support to families displaced in the pursuit of life-saving cancer treatment. Today, Nick’s vision is being fulfilled through the relentless efforts of his family, athletes and supporters across the country uniting in the fight against cancer. For more information on the HEADstrong Foundation and how to donate, host a fundraiser or volunteer, please visit www.HEADstrong.org.