The Colleluoris’ power was forged by pain. Their son Nick died in 2006 of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Diagnosed during his freshman year at Hofstra University, Nick underwent treatment at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. From his hospital bed, he created the HEADstrong Foundation and tasked his parents with making it a reality. They have, raising more than $9 million to fund lymphoma research, offer peer support and care packages to patients, and establish Nick’s Houses, which provide free lodging for families and patients undergoing medical treatment in Philadelphia.
Cheryl and Pat’s bond was rock solid long before Nick was born, though. “We aren’t just spouses,” Cheryl says. “We are a dynamic duo.”
High school sweethearts, the Colleluoris married in 1979 when Cheryl was 20 and Pat was 19. A year later, they had the first of their four children. Pat drove a tractor-trailer for Coca-Cola, while Cheryl took care of their unruly brood. She eventually went back to work, becoming an executive at Staples.
Cheryl’s business experience makes her the perfect organizational leader of HEADstrong. “You can only have one chief, so I’m the Indian,” Pat says with a laugh.
But there were tears in his voice when he spoke about his wife: “She’s a beacon of light for families in their darkest day. She’s a tower of love for us and the entire community.”