By Ryan Kaczmarski
The St. Edward and Rocky River boys lacrosse teams faced off on Saturday afternoon in an eventual thrilling 7-6 victory for the Pirates. This was the second annual “Getting a HEAD of Cancer” match that St. Ed’s plays against a neighboring public school, with last year’s match being played against Westlake.
St. Ed’s graduate and Rocky River resident Pat Dowling initiated the event last year as a senior on the lacrosse team, in cooperation with the Headstrong Foundation, to raise money for the research of blood cancer. His mother, Sue Dowling, lost her battle with non-Hodgkin lymphoma five years ago, and he wanted to do something to help raise awareness of the disease.
“We lost his mother, and my wife, to lymphoma, and Pat found out – in memory to his mother – about this particular way to raise money for research for blood cancer,” Jerry Dowling, Pat’s father, said. “He e-mailed the Headstrong Foundation and found out what it would take to help out.”
The Headstrong Foundation was started by Nicholas “Head” Colleluori. He was a lacrosse player at Hofstra University, who was stricken with blood cancer, eventually succumbing to the disease in 2006. According to the foundation website, the mission is to carry on Colleluori’s legacy through advocating, fundraising and supporting those affected by blood cancer and those working toward eliminating it.
“He (Colleluori) started it while he was in treatment, before he lost his battle at the age of 21,” Jerry Dowling said. “He had a positive message, like ‘living life (to the fullest) every day,’ and that made Pat want to do something. The St. Ed’s community, last year, really pulled together – the kids on the team, the school, the coaches and the administration – and basically put this on against a local team.
“This year we thought it would be great to play the game against River, because we know all of those people and the two communities know each other pretty well.”
Many of the Rocky River and St. Ed’s boys played together in the Rocky River youth lacrosse program, so parents and players know each other well.
“We started this last year, with our game against Westlake, which was a home game,” said St. Ed’s head coach Dave Giorgis. “This year, Rocky River was a home game and they were kind enough – selling out all of their T-shirts and things like that – to help raise money for blood cancer research. Pat started it (the foundation game) and now the Gravino brothers (Vince and Joe) inherited it.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to give back to the community with service hours, which is a very important thing for all players,” he added. “Everyone’s involved. We have raffles going on and things like that, so it’s been awesome, I think.”
There were several tents set up, featuring concessions, basket raffles, a 50-50 raffle and Headstrong Foundation merchandise, with all proceeds going toward cancer research. For more information on where all the proceeds are going, go to www.headstrongfoundation.org.
Rocky River (7-1) will travel to Hawken Upper School on Friday at 7:30 p.m., while St. Ed’s (4-5) will play at Erie Cathedral Prep Friday at 7:30 p.m.