Remembering Andrew Accardi

In mid-March 2008, a couple dozen boys were trying out for the Staples golf team. The wind chill was 20 degrees, and coach Tom Owen told them that if they wished, they could go inside. He would not hold it against them.

A 9th grader shook uncontrollably from the cold. But he refused to quit.

“I want to finish,” Andrew Accardi told Owen.

Despite his heart, his scores were not good enough to make the very talented squad. But Owen loved Andrew’s attitude, and asked him to be the team manager.

Andrew battled more than wind and cold that day. Since age 5 — nearly 10 years earlier — he’d been fighting neuroblastoma, a brutal childhood cancer.

Andrew Accardi, doing what he loved.

Andrew Accardi, doing what he loved.

“Andrew never wanted sympathy or pity,” Owen says. “He never let on how much he was suffering. He just wanted a normal high school life.”

His golf teammates treated him exactly that way. They befriended him, joked with him, teased him.

The next year — as a sophomore — Andrew made the team. Despite frequent trips to Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, he was a Staples golfer for the rest of high school.

He, Owen, and many friends and family members worked together on fundraisers for the hospital, to aid in neuroblastoma research. Over 4 years, “Andrew’s Army” raised hundreds of thousands of dollars.

After graduating in 2011, Andrew attended Villanova University, as a finance and marketing major. Just as at Staples, he quickly gained many friends and admirers.

This morning, Andrew lost his 15-year fight. He was 20 years old.

“I respect him greatly, for everything he did,” Owen says with emotion. “He inspired so many people. I hope kids who knew him learn never to take for granted what they have.”

Staples principal John Dodig agrees.

Andrew Accardi

Andrew Accardi

“I remember this small boy with a knit cap on. Sometimes he was here, and for weeks he was not. Each time he reappeared, students and adults welcomed him back. He walked around the building with a smile on his face.

“His biggest goal at that point in his life was to walk across the stage at graduation. Every teacher, administrator, and support person was determined to help him accomplish his goal.”

Andrew did walk across the stage. Dodig shook his hand. James Farnen, his assistant principal for 4 years, gave him a huge hug.

Andrew Felman — the current Staples golf captain — was a freshman when Andrew Accardi was a senior. When he heard the news this morning, the captain told Owen he wants the team to wear Andrew’s initials on their golf shirts this year.

What a great tribute. It will keep Andrew Accardi so close to their hearts.

35 responses to “Remembering Andrew Accardi

  1. Why we haven’t found a cure for childhood and all cancers, I don’t know. I echo Tom Owen’s sentiments and the Gai family sends its love and heartfelt condolences to the Accardi family. Sad day.

  2. Andrew loved a sport that is very near and dear to our hearts. Our family understands the drive he would have to continually strive to meet his goals. We pray for Andrew and his family. God bless you Andrew.

  3. This story brought tears to my eyes. My 3 year old son is fighting Acute lymphocytic leukemia and has to fight for everyday as Andrew did. Some people are taken far too young for no reason. Also, when I was at Staples I probably wouldn’t have graduated without Tom Owen. He was one of the few teachers that really cared and pushed me to reach my fullest potential. He and Farnen love each and every one of their students like they are their own so in addition to sending my prayers and thoughts out to this amazing kid, my heart goes out to Tom and Jim as well.

    -Mike Kulich, SHS 04

  4. Jill Christerson Lundgren

    What an absolutely beautiful post about a truly great kid. He fulfilled his dreams of being on the golf team, and walking the stage to graduate (as many of us have done before). Godspeed Andrew!

  5. Andrew’s mother was my son’s Make a Wish grantor. She never told us of her own connection, choosing to keep it close to her heart. We learned of it later and were awed by her strength. An incredible family, an awful disease, and SimplyNot Right. We will keep fighting until all kids are cured.

  6. Very sad, Dan, thanks for sharing. I did not know Andrew personally, but recall Bill Heery telling me years ago about his illness, preceding what would become a long and courageous battle. Andrew’s courage and fight to keep coming back are incredibly admirable, never mind his search for normalcy, all with a smile on his face. And what a wonderful and fitting tribute by Andrew Felman and the golf team to keep Andrew on their side. Deepest condolences and prayers for Andrew and the Accardi family.

  7. I coached Andrew in youth soccer and he was simply a terrific kid, a great athlete and a true fighter. Thanks for this post Dan. Godspeed to his family.

  8. RIP Andrew.

  9. My daughter called me from college in tears this morning. She and Andrew had been friends throughout school and we were all in awe of the family’s strength, spirit and courage and of course, that of Andrew. Deepest condolences to the Accardi family, and let us hope that one day we will defeat this terrible scourge..

  10. Diane Wendroff

    Love, prayers and strength to the Accardi family.

  11. Laura Grossman Nissim

    My sadness knows no bounds, I have known Andrew since he began at Coleytown El; as the school nurse and as a parent with children in the same age group. I watched him with clinical expertise as well as maternal pride; that this child and his family worked so terribly hard to make the world as a normal place as they could; when it was so far from normal. The Accardi Family and Andrew have worked so, so hard. I relished and was so awed at all of his accomplishments from the play ground to the class room. My heart goes out to Ellen and Frank as well as Andrew’s sisters. Much love to you all.

  12. Arlene Scanlan

    Andrew was always a light in the lives of his friends and family. I am so saddened as is everyone in our family who’s hearts reach out to the Accardi family with our sympathy. He was a true fighter. No more fighting Andrew. Just peace. And Love…

  13. I met Andrew when he was in the 2nd grade and he and my daughter, Hannah, became friends. Never did I see him when a smile was not on his face. One of the nicest kids in Westport. A true inspiration to all who knew him. Rest in peace, Andrew, and love and prayers to the Accardi Family.

  14. My thoughts and prayers go out to his sisters and parents. I knew Andrew when he was younger, and he was always so spunky and full of life. It is so sad to know that such a wonderful person is gone. Rest in peace Andrew.

  15. Elida Gollomp

    A very sad day…..Rest in peace, Andrew. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Accardi Family.

  16. Rest in peace Andrew. You were a true inspiration to us all. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Accardi family.

  17. Jill Denowitz

    Rest in peace Andrew and prayers to the Accardi family. He was such an inspiration to us all.

  18. The Puklin Family

    Our hearts break for the Accardi Family. Our thoughts and love are with you. Andrew will forever be with you.

  19. I will never forgot Andrew’s smile! I was the nurse at SHS during his high school years and his strength and determination were an inspiration to everyone that knew him. He battled this horrible disease like a super hero and touched more lives that I think he knew. When Andrew was out of school for treatments, there was not a day that a student or teacher did not ask how he was and when he would be back! My heart goes out to his parents and lovely sisters. Rest in peace Andrew, we will never forget you!

  20. This is such a heartbreak. I didn’t know Andrew, but as a mother of three SHS grads I still consider us part of the Staples community who mourn this very sad loss. Our heartfelt expression of sympathy to the Accardi family.

  21. Patricia Benedetti

    Patricia Benedetti
    Andrew’s long battle has need to fight anymore..just wish him eternal peace and hope he knows the love of his amazing family will always be with him. He certainly made his mark during his short time here..and will be remembered for his courage and will to persevere against all odds.
    My heart too goes out to Ellen, Frank and their three lovely daughters.

  22. Frank Accardi

    We all thought our Andrew’s pluck and quiet courage as well his deep desire just to be a normal kid was our little secret.
    Dr John Maris has said it best .Dan’s piece perfectly captured Andrew Accardi’ s spirit.
    On behalf of our family thank you all for your many, many kindnesses over the years.
    Ellen,Andrea,Christine Caroline and Frank Accardi

  23. Aini Rockwell

    My deepest condolences to the Accardi family, they are an incredible family and my heart breaks for their loss.

  24. It wasn’t until senior year of HS and rec basketball where I really had the opportunity to spend time with Andrew. He was an athlete, a competitor and always had his head in the game. What I’ll never forget is his winning smile that just lit up the entire gym, his heart and determination but most of all, the way he carried himself with such class and dignity. Rest in peace Andrew. You will live on in the hearts of so many.

  25. I didn’t know Andrew but after reading all about him from others I am sure he is one of God’s favorite angels. Rest in peace son.

  26. Rest in peace Andrew. Love and prayers to the Accardi Family. Mike and Jessie Elsas

  27. Valerie Wolgast

    My heart aches. Deepest sympathy to You, Ellen, Frank and family. We were so fortunate to have gotten to know him. We will miss him dearly. Much love and prayers. The Wolgast family

  28. Andrew Accardi inspiration! Rest in peace Andrew.

  29. Arline and Harold Foodman

    We are your neighbors across the street. How many times did we find Andre’s golf balls in our front yard. He certainly was persistent. How many times did he stop to talk with us as he drove by. He will surely be missed. He was the bravest kid we ever knew.
    Arline and Harold Foodman

  30. Diann Drenosky

    To the Accardi Family: I share an office with Tom Owen and have for over 25 years. I have never seen Tom so touched and so moved by any other student and athlete. He loved your son and brother. He is heart broken but
    so inspired by Andrew. Andrew will always be with Tom and all the people that knew him. I met Andrew many times and he was a wonderful kid. My heartfelt sympathies to his parents and sisters. And to Tom.

  31. To my dear friends,
    We are so deeply humbled by the trust you put in us at CHOP, for the gift of Andrew, and mostly for allowing us to care for such an amazing young man. His passing is a tragedy, but his life will never be forgotten, and his legacy will further catalyze our quest for a finding a cure so others will not need to suffer as Andrew did with such dignity and grace.

    With sincere condolences,

    John and the CHOP team

  32. Paula & Alex Anderson

    We’re so very sorry to hear about Andrew. We think of his spunk, joining us on our group’s ski trips in the great Canadian north. He was a terrific snowboarder. What a fantastic young man! We’ll cherish every memory. Deepest sympathy and love to Frank, Ellen and the girls from your Canadian friends.

  33. William Stranges

    We received a call in 1999, from Frank, and it changed their lives forever. Andrew had cancer. Since then, my wife and I have had our hearts pour out, second only to the Accardi family. But, we can never fully comprehend their grief.
    As just one person knowing Andrew and his courage and faith, and his family’s courage and faith, I can only say that an inspirational young man has been taken from us. His constant and complete positive outlook is and will continue to be a source of admiration and inspiration to me and, I believe, others.

    We love you Andrew.

    William, Joanne and Cain Stranges

  34. I was blessed to have spent many hours with Andrew in my role as Staples assistant golf coach under Tom Owen. I can’t imagine ever forgetting Andrew. I always felt as though Andrew was “The Face of Staples Golf”, as he represented every ideal of what we hoped for in a young man. He was an absolute gentleman at all times. With Andrew, it was never about “him”, but rather what he could do to help “as part of a team”.
    Personally, my most vivid memory of Andrew was how he never complained (never, not even once). Although he was not always at full strength, he always had an “up” attitude and was “ready to go”. In some ways, it feels as Andrew was my teacher….. he will be a permanent reminder to me about appreciating a round of golf….. about viewing the glass as “half full rather than half empty”.
    My deepest condolences go out to Andrew’s family. How you must love him.

  35. Rev Robert Pagliari, CSSR

    Rest in peace, gentle man, Andrew. God, give courage and strength to Frank, Ellen, Andrea, Christine, and Caroline. Prayers and blessings, always. –Father Bob.