HOLMES, Pa. (CBS) – This inspiring story begins with a most heartbreaking event: the death of 21-year-old Nick Colleluori, a Ridley High School graduate and Division I lacrosse player for Hofstra University.

Before he died of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, he started the nonprofit HEADstrong Foundation, which his mother Cheryl and his brother Michael carry on today.

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Story continues below…

(Cheryl Colleluori and Michael Colleluori. Photo by KYW's Andre Bennett)

“His final wishes were that he wanted other people to benefit from the life that he lived,” says Cheryl Colleluori.

Michael Colleluori says the foundation’s name comes from his childhood nickname, “Head,” because he had a big head.

“He came up with the word ‘strong’ to add onto his nickname, which equals ‘HEADstrong,’ ” explains Michael.  “He was always a strong kid.  We kinda thought, you know, ‘Nick’s gonna beat this.’  All along we thought that, and there was no doubt in our mind he was going to.”

So far, the foundation has raised $1 million, with lacrosse organizations and equipment companies from around the world pitching in to help.  Next month, they’re holding an event called the “Lime Light Gala,” so they can do even more.

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(Cheryl:)  “We’re hoping that we can have a packed house on March 25th and raise those funds to end this disease, because I don’t want anybody to have to walk in these shoes.”

(Michael:)  “We’re just kind of here with our hands on the steering wheel and Nick’s got his foot on the pedal, and he’s pushing this forward and kind of overseeing things, and making sure that we’re doing the right stuff.”

(Cheryl:)  “It was easy when he was here fighting, and this is kind of our way to fill that void without him.”

Hear Lauren Lipton’s full interview with Cheryl and Michael Colleluori in this CBS Philly podcast…

That’s Positively Philadelphia!

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Reported by Lauren Lipton, KYW Newsradio 1060.