Holmes-Based HEADstrong Serves Families Affected by Cancer at 10th Annual Thanksgiving Feast

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Photos courtesy of the HEADstrong Foundation.

headstrong-lacrosse-1-300x132Thanksgiving marked the 10th year that the Holmes-based HEADstrong Foundation has prepared and served the traditional holiday feast to the patients and families receiving inpatient care at the Abramson Cancer Center of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

Annually, the Colleluori family – alongside a dedicated group of volunteers – is involved with preparing and serving a traditional Thanksgiving meal to hundreds of patients, families, and medical staff.

HEADstrong’ s annual Thanksgiving feast is part of the organization’s HEADtable program, which serves meals and provides outlets of entertainment and recreational activities for in-patients and their families receiving cancer care at Philadelphia-based hospitals.

Nick Colleluori
Nick Colleluori

Spending the Thanksgiving holiday at Abramson Cancer Center is a reality all too familiar to the Colleluori family, who spearhead the organization. It was here that the family shared their last Thanksgiving with their son, brother, and HEADstrong founder Nicholas Colleluori, who succumbed to non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma just two days after the 2006 holiday.

During the last days of his life, Nicholas asked his family to see his vision of the HEADstrong Foundation into fruition and to help gather loved ones by serving and sharing the traditional meal with patients and families on his favorite holiday.

“Thanksgiving was our Nick’s favorite holiday,” said Michael Colleluori, HEADstrong Foundation Vice President and Nick’s Brother. “Serving and sharing the feast has been a privilege that we as a family and organization are honored to provide. It has become a tradition for our family and it has sparked our HEADtable program.

“Through doing this, we have met so many wonderful people, many whom which have joined us in our efforts. It is very encouraging for patients to see survivors working alongside of us, because if there is anything that we can share with them during Thanksgiving, it is that they are not alone and that there is hope.”

Nick Colleluori excelled in football at Ridley High School and lacrosse at Hofstra University.
Nick Colleluori excelled in football at Ridley High School and lacrosse at Hofstra University.

HEADstrong’s volunteer core transformed conference space on each floor to seasonally-themed dining rooms. The rooms were event-equipped with entertainment units designed by Nicholas Colleluori himself to improve the inpatient accommodations on the floors. Families engaged in much-needed time together, and even had the opportunity to enjoy Thanksgiving football games.

Throughout the day, HEADstrong President Cheryl Colleluori, accompanied by an advocacy team of survivors once treated at HUP, traveled the floors to deliver comfort kits and personally meet with every patient and their family to listen and provide support, empathy, and a loving embrace.

“Spending the holidays in the hospital can be incredibly hard and depressing for patients,” said Cheryl Colleluori, HEADstrong President and Nick’s mother. “As a ‘family first’ organization that exists to provide normalcy to families living with cancer, we embrace the importance of the family support network and the role that it plays on a patient’s wellbeing.

“Our hope is for our heroes to find strength and inspiration in being around the ones they love, and are able to temporarily escape from the realities of being in-patient for treatment. We have walked in the shoes of every patient and family spending the holiday on these floors, and we want them to know that they are not alone.”

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