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Growing for a cause

Growing for a cause

Written by athletic communications student assistant Alyssa Jodarski

The students at Concordia University Wisconsin (CUW) are quite involved in making the church, community and world a better place. With 2,166 volunteer hours completed thus far in the school year, it isn't hard to tell that students 'Live Uncommon'. For instance, right now there's an art supplies drive, the Angel Tree, the NACC Cans Across the Conference and many other volunteer events going on. As a student body, CUW knows how to get things done.

The CUW Men's Lacrosse team stands out right now as a group doing amazing things for the community, participating in "Lacrosse Mustache Madness" through the HEADstrong Foundation. The team has participated in years past and they're not the only ones. A large number of lacrosse programs across the country, big and small, participate in this program.

Head coach Michael Fahey explained how the team got started, saying, "The kid who founded HEADstrong was a lacrosse player who was diagnosed with cancer and it's a way for us to give back. Even if it's only a little, it's still a way to give back."

The player Fahey mentioned was Nicholas Colleluori and he was a lacrosse player for Hofstra University in 2005. After playing his freshman season, Colleluori was diagnosed with Diffuse Large B-Cell non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, a cancer of the blood. During his 14-month battle with cancer, he founded HEADstrong and Nick's House, which raise money and provide assistance for others experiencing cancer.

Fahey described the reason behind the mustache to support cancer awareness as, "Nick couldn't grow hair on his head because of the chemo, so he started growing a mustache. He kind of left a legacy behind that way." Now the Men's Lacrosse program and other male teams around campus and coaches alike grow mustaches to raise awareness for cancer.

Cancer has affected millions of people and even the coaches on the team. Graduate Assistant Coach Kellen Asmundson opened up about his family's struggles with cancer explaining, "My stepmom had breast cancer. She's cancer-free now and in remission. I also had a cousin die of cervical cancer and another of ovarian cancer. Cancer has always been an important topic for me. It affects everyone and, at least for me, I'm always happy to give back, even if it's only a little bit."

The team, according to Graduate Assistant Coach Bennett Pallex has always done an exceptional job of being there for each other when things happen in a teammate's life. He walked through the experiences he had just last year as a senior defender, saying "My grandpa passed away when we were at Buffalo last year. I let Coach Fahey know what was going on and he was very supportive. On the day of the funeral, we had a game against Carthage and I went to the funeral and came back that same day. I made it back just in time for the bus and all of my teammates were really good about it. I feel like we are always there for each in times of need or tragedy."

In a world where cancer is all too common, raising awareness can be just as important as raising money.

Asmundson articulated, "Cancer is more noticeable now. We can have more of a social media connection now that we did 10 years ago. The guys, even if they don't donate or raise money, they're still raising awareness. That is arguably just as important as raising money."

He further elaborated, "It shows that we care even when it seems hopeless. We have a team of 40 young men who are there for each other through thick and thin. Bad things like cancer can bring us closer together. Practices are tough, classes are hard, but in the end, it helps us to know that at the end of the day, your teammates will be there to pick you back up."

Fahey added, "It's the right thing to do and we have the ability. We have a larger number of guys on our roster and even if we only raise $1,500, that's still $1,500 regardless of the fact that it's not $10,000 or $15,000."

The men on the team have a link on HEADstrong's Lacrosse Mustache Madness page, where anyone can donate on their behalf. They are going head-to-head with other lacrosse programs throughout the country by tossing their razors and attempting to raise as much money as they can towards cancer research and aiding those who are affected by it.

Over time, the Falcons player will begin to post on their Twitter accounts, showing their progress with their mustaches and matching up against other schools. Pallex, chuckling in the process, exclaimed, "Some of the guys on the team have lighter facial hair, so they're using Just For Men hair color on their faces. It looks funny, but even if it's silly, it's a great way to raise awareness." The team will take a mustache picture after the end of Mustache Madness, which is November 28th.

The team initially had a goal of $500, which was quickly surpassed and changed to $800. They now have around $1,200 and are hoping to raise as much money as they possibly can. Each athlete has their own link so that their family members can donate and then all the money gets pooled into the team's numbers. To see the team's progress or donate, visit https://pledge.headstrong.org/team/262024.

To learn more about the foundation of HEADstrong and Nick's experiences, visit https://headstrong.org/our-founder/.