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By Joseph Santoliquito

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — He sat there at his kitchen table over 10 years ago and spoke about dying. He knew he was going to die though wasn’t going to admit it to those closest to him. It was his insurmountable courage in facing the inevitable that touched everyone who ever had the pleasure of meeting and knowing Nicky Colleluori.

“I can’t get scared,” said Colleluori at the time, frail and stubborn, battling non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. “Things happen that you sometimes have no control over. I can be angry, really angry. But this whole thing has been harder for everyone else — my family, my friends, everyone close to me — than for me. I couldn’t stay angry. I never looked at it as something that I did to myself. It’s something that I have no control over. I’m just going to keep on fighting.”

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That was typical Nicky. Never willing to give up.

He just turned 21 when he died on November 28th, 2006, surrounded by his family and multitude of friends.

But what he started, dying there on a hospital bed, has flourished into a miracle today—The HEADstrong Foundation, run by mother, Cheryl, HEADstrong President.

On Friday, the HEADstrong Foundation will be holding its 7th Annual Lime Light Gala at the Hilton Philadelphia on Penns Landing (201 South Columbus Boulevard), with cocktails and the silent auction beginning at 6:30 p.m. For more information, you can go to info@headstrong.org or call 610-461-5987.

To date, the HEADstrong Foundation, a charitable non-profit dedicated to research in finding a cure for blood cancer and to help families affected by the disease. In its 10-year existence, the foundation has raised close to $10 million, founded by Nicky “Head” Colleluori.

The Colleluoris have pledged their lives to the organization, helping over 14,000 cancer patients. HEADstrong currently owns two homes in the Delaware County area for families whose relatives are getting treated by local hospitals for cancer, in addition to holding hundreds of events each year, mostly lacrosse related, throughout the country, topped off by their annual Lime Light Gala, which benefits the charity.

HEADstrong is committed to being the difference on behalf of families like the Artus’s, the Rudd’s and the Marks’, who all share a common denominator, a love for the game of lacrosse and now unfortunately cancer. Kevin Artus, a 15-year old from Oceanside, NY is currently fighting non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Jake Rudd, a 13-year old from Wayne, New Jersey is battling Ewing’s Sarcoma and Quade Marks, an 8-year old from Denver, Colorado is battling AML.

“HEADstrong is an amazing organization that helps families like ours navigate through a horrible cancer diagnosis,” said Kevin Rudd, Jake’s father. “Nick’s family has spent literally hours with me on the phone, helping me to try and make sense of it all. They have great ideas on how to handle funds, caregiving of our son and even told me great inspiring stories about their son and brother Nicholas. We are so happy and thankful that HEADstrong found us through this game we love so much!”

With events around the country and campaigns throughout the year, 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 in the Greater Philadelphia Region. HEADstrong was inspired to open Nick’s House after encountering a family who was living out of their car in a hospital parking garage while their daughter underwent care.

The insurmountable debt paired with loss of wages and out of pocket expenses had financially devastated this family, who had coasted into town on fumes so that their daughter could receive a potentially life-saving bone marrow transplant. The Colleluori’s welcomed this family into their home and the idea of Nick’s House was born. Since opening in 2011, Nick’s House has operated at 100% occupancy and has welcomed families from all over the country. The organization recently acquired a second home in Swarthmore, which will serve seven families.

All started from the indomitable will of someone thinking about others as he sat there staring death in the eyes.

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