Ask Patrick Donaghy ’98 how the Garnet lacrosse team impacted his life, and he’ll tell you about his choice to join the HEADstrong program. HEADstrong, a nationwide lacrosse program, was founded in 2006 by Nicholas “Head” Collelouri. Collelouri, who passed away in November 2006 after a grueling battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, established the program in hopes of raising awareness about blood cancer and helping victims such as himself.
In about two weeks, the nation’s sixth annual Nick Collelouri Classic lacrosse tournament will be hosted at Ridley High School in Folsom, Pennsylvania — a five minute drive from Swarthmore. Many familiar foes will play on Collelouri’s home field in support of the HEADstrong program, including Lehigh University, Neumann University, and Widener University.
Donaghy, who was recently introduced as the new Minnesota HEADstrong coordinator, shares more than a few common interests with Collelouri. His list of lacrosse accomplishments includes playing on the Scotland National lacrosse team from 1990-2001; serving as Swarthmore’s assistant lacrosse coach in 1998, 2002, and 2004-2006; and supporting the Woodbury Lacrosse Program in Minnesota since he moved there in 2008.
Not only did Donaghy share Collelouri’s love for lacrosse, but he also feels closely tied to Hofstra University, where Collelouri played for the varsity men’s lacrosse team. His brother, Gerry Donaghy, played for the Hofstra Pride from 1999-2002. His nephew, Brian Donaghy, played from 1991-1994. So perhaps unsurprisingly, the story really hit close to home.
When Donaghy first heard about HEADstrong in 2006, the program had barely begun. “I don’t think they had the name ‘HEADstrong’ yet. They were just out there talking about their cause,” Donaghy said. Now, they have raised over 2 million dollars, and they only plan on growing.
“[Nick]’s memory has impacted the country at the highest level in lacrosse,” Donaghy said. Collelouri’s legacy remains the center of the program’s mission and the source of strength for his family.
Just as Collelouri’s spirit and resolute determination was contagious, so is the sport he loved so much.
“There are now lacrosse clubs in California, Minnesota, Miami, and Philadelphia,” Donaghy said.
As a mission statement, Donaghy said: “My goal is to teach lacrosse at the highest level to all the players […] and to teach them that there’s a lot of good you can do. I want to try to tie Minnesota to the rest of the country.”
It’s only been a year since he joined the HEADstrong program, but Donaghy has already felt its lasting impacts. “It’s completely changed the way I coach lacrosse. It’s completely changed my overall goal of being involved with lacrosse,” Donaghy said.
Donaghy also acknowledges the places, people, and principles that have led him down this path. He would not be a lacrosse coach if it wasn’t for Swarthmore Head Coach Pat Gress, who mentored him for three seasons.
“I still talk a lot with Pat. He’s been a pretty big influence on my coaching career,” Donaghy said.
Gress had equally heartfelt praise for his former player, commenting that “Pat was very inquisitive about strategy and asked lots of questions. It was clear that he thought about the game from more than an athletic standpoint and would continue his involvement with the game as a coach […] I’m not surprised at all that HEADstrong has identified Pat as a coach and ambassador in Minnesota.”
With three teams on his plate, Donaghy will certainly be busy for the many years to come as a part of the HEADstrong program. Though he may have only humbly said, “I’m just trying to do my part,” his enthusiasm for the sport and for Nick’s message will add a fervent voice to this already powerful organization.
And Donaghy has not forgotten his college roots: “Swarthmore always gave me the sense of wanting to give, and wanting to do things for the greater good.”
Find out more about the HEADstrong organization by visiting http://headstrongfoundation.org/.