By BRIAN CUNNIFF
It was 60 degrees and sunny on Monday, a welcome respite from the otherwise damp, windy and cool weather conditions Cape May County residents have endured for most of this spring.
In other words, a perfect day for the boys lacrosse team at Lower Cape May Regional High School to practice.
But the team’s training facility at Frank Simonsen Field just north of the high school was empty that day.
Instead, the players and coaches set down their lacrosse sticks, gloves and helmets and picked up rakes, wheel barrels and trash bags to lend a helping hand in the community.
Through the efforts of the HEADStrong Foundation, the Lower Cape May players and coaches spent Monday afternoon cleaning the property of an elderly Lower Township resident suffering from cancer who had no means to do the work herself or pay someone else to do the same.
According to its website, the HEADStrong Foundation was established to help improve the quality of life for those affected by cancer. The foundation encourages athletes, particularly lacrosse players, to get involved in the cause. It was established to help fulfill the vision of the late Nicholas Colleluori, a former Philadelphia area high school and Hofstra University lacrosse star who passed away from cancer in the summer of 2006.
“We had gotten an email from HEADStrong, and they were reaching out to see if anybody could help out and we saw that this was right here in our backyard,” said Lower coach Chris Boyle. “They asked if we could get anybody over there to help. We just said that this was going to be our practice that day.”
The Lower players and coaches were joined by professional landscapers from Victorian Gardens Landscaping, which donated their time, labor and supplies. Mulch for the project was donated by Smeltzer and Sons Feed and Pet Supplies. Also on hand was Sarah Mahony of the HEADStrong Foundation.
The players helped clear debris, trash and clippings from the property, which was located in the Cape Woods development off Fishing Creek Road in the township. The spent close to two hours working at the property.
“We preach family, respect and community — all that fine stuff,” Boyle said. “I don’t think any of our guys had a hard time buying into this. They could see this was about helping someone out in our community.”
The players clearly enjoyed themselves despite the work.
“It’s very important just to give back to the community and to be out here working hard,” said Chase Mendyk, one of the team’s captains. “It was a chance to step away from the game and give back and just be good citizens.”