SWARTHMORE, Pa. — Cheryl Colleluori had delivered a meal at a Philadelphia youngsters’s hospital to a household touched by most cancers when she seen the 6-foot-5 hulking man with a shaved head holding the hand of somewhat woman.
Colleluori immediately acknowledged Devon Nonetheless, the previous Penn State star whose daughter Leah was identified with a uncommon most cancers that impacts primarily infants and younger youngsters. Out of respect, Colleluori saved her distance and allowed the Stills their household time, but when she may have stopped him and shared a message, it was this: “You’re a fortunate, fortunate man. I want I used to be that fortunate.”
Colleluori’s son Nick was an undersized pitbull of an athlete who parlayed expertise and grit right into a lacrosse scholarship at Hofstra. However towards the top of his freshman season in 2005, what Nick thought was a difficulty along with his listening to as an alternative was identified as non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Nick Colleluori died at 21 years outdated on Nov 28, 2006, however not earlier than he left a legacy carried out by his household: Nick’s Home, a free dwelling for most cancers sufferers, and their households, present process remedy within the Philadelphia space.
Colleluori lastly bought the prospect to satisfy Nonetheless practically three half of years later when the retired NFL lineman toured Nick’s Home. Leah Nonetheless is nearing 4 years in remission and her father has develop into an creator, motivational speaker, and an inspiration — particularly to strangers struggling like his household did.
“I simply type of admired how jovial you had been, and attempting to be as regular as attainable in a really, very powerful state of affairs,” Colleluori instructed Nonetheless inside the home.
Colleluori directed Nonetheless towards a portrait of her son above the fireside within the dwelling that matches as much as seven households and comes furnished, with full bogs and different comforts of dwelling. Nick Colleluori based the HEADstrong Basis from his hospital mattress and greater than 500 individuals are anticipated on the ninth fundraising gala for the nonprofit group will probably be held Friday in Philadelphia.
“It’s cool to learn the way she recycled her ache to assist different folks,” Nonetheless mentioned.
Leah was identified in 2014 with most cancers and have become an inspiration to tens of millions as her football-playing father shared particulars of her courageous struggle. She was given a prognosis of simply over 50 % to outlive stage four neuroblastoma. Leah is now a wholesome 8-year-old woman in third grade who lives in Houston and is ready to have a good time 4 years of her most cancers being in remission on March 25, with a gala in Philadelphia for his or her “Nonetheless Sturdy Basis.”
“We’re simply combating to get to that five-year mark,” Nonetheless mentioned. “She’ll be declared most cancers free. There’s at all times an opportunity that Leah’s most cancers could come again as a result of she has an aggressive type of neuroblastoma. However when you get by means of that third 12 months, your probabilities drop considerably.”
Nonetheless performed three seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals and a 12 months with Houston earlier than he retired in 2017. His profession was dwarfed by his daughter’s struggle with most cancers — they had been in all places. Numerous movies, poignant interviews and appearances that raised most cancers consciousness and funds. They authored a youngsters’s ebook collectively, “I Am Leah Sturdy.” Leah even obtained the Jimmy V Perseverance Award on the ESPY Awards in 2015.
“Simply struggle for 4 quarters,” Nonetheless mentioned. “No matter what you’re listening to from the medical doctors, no matter what your prognosis is, otherwise you learn on the Web, so long as your baby is alive, you continue to have an opportunity to essentially win this battle with most cancers. Leah failed her first remedy. The most cancers ended up spreading throughout her physique. However as a result of we didn’t hand over, we didn’t throw within the towel, my daughter is now happening 4 years in remission.”
Nonetheless was moved by Colleluori and her mission at Nick’s Home. Most households that arrive on the home are financially strapped and in search of a way of group throughout essentially the most devastating time of their lives. The HEADstrong Basis has raised greater than $9 million since 2007 and helped practically 14,000 most cancers sufferers and their households. Colleluori has walked the stroll of cancer-stricken households and the home has develop into a assist system for these in want, and it’s a full home — 15 whole folks for households at present from South Carolina, Alabama, New York and Pennsylvania all reside within the momentary housing. The youngest most cancers affected person now within the 120-year-old home is only a 21-month-old boy with a uncommon leukemia, and the house is open to all ages and anybody with a most cancers analysis. Colleluori had purposes on her desk that she needed to reject as a result of Nick’s Home was at capability — two sufferers who lived on the home this 12 months have died — although enlargement plans are on the horizon. Greater than 69 households have stayed at Nick’s Home, which is managed with volunteers, over the previous 12 months and the common keep is six-to-eight weeks.
The 29-year-old Nonetheless admires this system and the way the households have persevered within the hardest occasions — a lesson he’s nonetheless studying with Leah.
“If it comes again, it comes again and we’ll simply take care of it then,” Nonetheless mentioned. “However I’m not going to permit most cancers to manage us prefer it did for 2 years.”