After watching his aunt take her last breath in the hospital due to breast cancer in 2014, Joe Luconte was determined to use the tragedy to help promote awareness about cancer.
Four years later he dedicated his senior lacrosse season at Webster Thomas to her memory and partnered with the PledgeIt Face Off Against Cancer campaign to raise over $2,600.
“It’s an unexplainable feeling. It’s something that makes you feel good about yourself knowing you’re helping people that maybe can’t help themselves,” Luconte said. “It’s a pretty surreal feeling.”
Luconte’s aunt, Martha Pignone, was not the first in his family to succumb to cancer, as he also lost his grandmother to the disease.
The sense of loss naturally motivated Luconte to raise awareness, and when he was approached about participating in the campaign by the HEADstrong Foundation before the season he didn’t hesitate to jump right in.
He and 33 other faceoff specialists across the country banded together to raise $23,907 with Luconte’s total being the second-most in the group. Initially, his goal was to raise $500, but with the efforts of his mother and the power of social media he was able to raise over five times that.
“At the beginning of the year I was like yeah, $500 is a pretty good goal,” Luconte said. “I didn’t think a lot of people would notice I was doing it, but I just kept telling everyone to participate. My mom put it on Facebook and a bunch of her college friends shared it. Then, of course, people could donate however much they wanted for every faceoff win. I had a few people give $5 for faceoff (wins), which was crazy.”
Considering how close Luconte was with his aunt, at times the campaign made it difficult for him as the memories of their relationship were pushed to the forefront of his mind. He pushed through the pain and secured Webster Thomas’ groundball career record with 311.
“Doing this made me think about her more than I usually would, and at times it sucked to think about her being gone,” Luconte said. “Raising awareness is the biggest part though, but it was great to break the record. My next-door neighbor previously held it and I was able to bust his chops a little.”
The Titans’ coach, Rob Ruller was a proud spectator to Luconte’s efforts on the field and the selflessness he displayed off it. “He’s always been thoughtful and caring. This was all on his own and used his skill set to help out the community,” Ruller said.
With Luconte providing stability in the midfield, Webster Thomas reached its second Section V Class B title game in the last three years before falling to Victor 10-9. While Webster Thomas has its fair share of standouts, Ruller was adamant they couldn’t have had the same success without Luconte, who was second on the team in assists and fifth in points.
“It was a great year because of the little things he did for us,” Ruller said. “The faceoff is kind of a weird position because it’s almost like a wrestling match in the middle of the field. Joe is a cerebral faceoff guy and is able to adjust to his opponent. He was always mature and resilient in his efforts for us.”
Luconte will continue his lacrosse career at State University College at Geneseo, where Ruller hopes his diverse skill set is put on display.
“I think he’s going to get bigger and stronger while also gaining confidence. We couldn’t always use his skill set because we were so deep,” Ruller said. “I think he has a lot of offensive game that will allow him to flourish at the next level, and I think he can be one of the best players in Division III.”