Nick and Nolan Fox are carrying out the vision of HEADstrong Foundation founder Nick Colleluori.
"It was always bigger than our own program," Nolan Fox said. "It was really ingrained into our community because Nick Colleluori went to our [Ridley] high school. We have his big jersey hanging up in our locker room."
Ridley High School's lacrosse locker room is a reminder of what Nick meant not only to the Ridley community but also to the greater Philadelphia area. One of Nick Colleluori's last promises before dying of cancer in 2007 was to provide a lacrosse legacy of himself through improving the experience of those suffering from cancer.
"They're just solid students all around, great kids, pretty cool," said Michael Colleluori, Nick's brother. "A lot of kids at that high school age, they were always very well-mannered. Good family. Good base at home. Which always resulted in them being good citizens."
Nick and Nolan Fox began playing lacrosse when they were 10. Their freshman year at Ridley, they began playing for Michael's HEADstrong lacrosse club. There, he coached the brothers before they moved on to play at Drexel.
Both the Fox brothers and the Colleluoris attended Ridley, which made the Foxes' commitment to the foundation that much more special.
Over the years, the brothers have been heavily involved in the foundation's fundraising efforts and HEADstrong lacrosse clubs across the greater Philadelphia area. Last year, the brothers helped the foundation throughout the summer with camps, making frequent stops to help Michael Colleluori with practice. This year, they helped with the launch of a new program in South Jersey middle schools.
"We went out and did some practices just working with the kids and helping out some of the coaches, too," Nick Fox said. "They always run events at our high school back home that we try to be at."
The HEADstrong Foundation was founded in 2007 in memory of Nick Colleluori, who had battled diffuse large B-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. In 2005, he had just completed his freshman season on Hofstra's lacrosse team when he was diagnosed with cancer. He died a little more than a year later at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.
The foundation manages youth lacrosse clubs, supports families battling through cancer, and provides scholarships for lacrosse athletes at Ridley and Hofstra.
"We feel a little bit more of a connection just growing up through the program. That's kind of our roots," said Nick Fox, adding that Drexel is a college partner to the foundation.
The HEADstrong Foundation this weekend hosted the University City Classic — one of nine tournaments around the country the organization sponsors during the year. It hosted four women's teams and nine men's teams, including local programs such as Drexel, Temple, and Penn, with the intent to raise money for cancer research. Each team's highest-fundraising athlete was recognized during the foundation's presentation.
"We love playing the sport, but it's nice to be a part of something bigger than the sport of lacrosse," Nolan Fox said. "It was really ingrained in our high school, and being able to support a foundation that helps so many other people that are affected by cancer, being able to play a sport that I love, it's awesome."