The Plattsburgh State Men’s Lacrosse ditched their razors to raise awareness and donations for cancer research Oct. 18.
The HEADstrong Foundation has been helping patients and families affected by cancer since 2006. Its mission is to improve the quality of those lives, and since its founding the organization has helped almost 13,000 patients and families, according to the foundations website, headstrong.org.
PSUCS’s lacrosse team, as well as other collegiate lacrosse teams around the country, has been participating in Lacrosse Mustache Madness.
“We wanted to do it for organizations that make a direct impact to people’s lives, which I think is the biggest thing for us,” PSUC men’s lacrosse head coach Ryan Cavanagh said. “HEADstrong’s organization does a great job in terms of improving the quality of life for people who are going through the struggle with cancer.”
The organization was founded by Nicholas Collelouri, who was in his first year of playing lacrosse at Hofstra University when he was diagnosed with diffuse large B-cell non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a blood cancer that affects the lymphatic system.
During the last year of his life, Collelouri realized the lack of resources for people and families whose lives had been affected by cancer, and he decided to create HEADstrong to raise awareness and funds by empowering athletes to support his mission.
The seventh annual fall fundraiser Lacrosse Mustache Madness benefits programs and services provided by the foundation to support those affected by cancer. Lacrosse teams around the country get involved by growing mustaches and wearing them proudly.
“Every comment, also known as compliment, you receive is a chance to raise awareness,” according to the website.
This year the foundation’s goal is to raise $127,000. Currently, they have raised $114,195.
Cavanagh believes this fundraiser is valuable experience for his squad.
“For us, it is having the guys go out and actually do something, and to have them be a part of something is more important to me than just going on a walk to show something,” Cavanagh said.
He said that when his players are asked why they are growing their mustaches, they can respond with, “We are raising money for the HEADstrong foundation.”
PSUC junior public relations major Kyle Espejo said Cavanagh chooses a foundation for the team to support every year. In 2012 and 2013, the team raised money for St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which helps fund research for childhood cancer. Last year, they assisted with the Wounded Warrior Project.
Cavanagh said that he has the team participate in fundraisers every year to make his players reflect on how lucky they are. He said he wants his players to understand that they aren’t invincible and that their ability to play could be taken away in an instant.
“Some people probably go their whole life without doing any type of charity work,” Cavanagh said. “For us, it is not only developing people on the field but off as well, and I hope our guys are taking that to heart.”
He said many of the players have gone above what the coaches asked of them, which was just to participate in growing out their facial hair and try to raise money, and he said they are doing a great job at doing so.
“We aren’t just lacrosse players,” Cavanagh said. “We are much more than that.”
Espejo said people have taken notice of the team growing their mustaches, even though not every player can grow one.
He said people see others around campus who have a “nice, burly mustache,” and they assume he is on the lacrosse team. He said some of those people think it is amusing.
PSUC senior environmental science major, geology minor and team captain Matt Renko said it was a fun experience because it was for a good cause and because it was entertaining to see his teammates growing a mustache.
“We have another week left, so we will be doing tabling, so any donations we will take,” Renko said.
PSUC senior business administration, business management double major and player James Grau said the team stood strong behind the cause and raised money for a good reason.
“It has helped us galvanize behind something,” Grau said. “Anything that we can do for a charity is fantastic.”
Grau said the mustaches kept their weekends “fresh.” Other PSUC students would approach them and say, “Keep it forever. I love it.” Even professors questioned why they were growing them.
Renko said during Halloween weekend, the team took advantage of their mustaches to complement their costumes. Cops, Super Troopers and cowboys were among the crowd, along with other costumes that a mustache would normally accompany.
After Nov. 18, the team will no longer have to grow their mustaches for the cause.
“I enjoyed the process. I’m all about giving back,” Espejo said. “I’m excited to see what Coach has in store for us next semester.”
Email Lisa Scivolette at firstname.lastname@example.org