Charlie Capalbo

Stags rally to show support for Charlie Capalbo ’22 in a social media challenge.

A town of Fairfield native, Charlie Capalbo ’22 grew up with Stag Country right in his own backyard. In March 2017, just as he was finishing his high school senior varsity hockey season as goaltender, Capalbo was diagnosed with a rare case of T Lymphoblastic Lymphoma (TLL).

After months of treatment in the hospital, he regained enough strength to enroll at Fairfield University and began his college career in the 2018 fall semester. With clear eyes and a full heart, Capalbo moved into Campion Hall and continued to receive routine chemotherapy treatment locally. But just four weeks into the semester, his doctors discovered new leukemia cancer cells, spurring a relocation to Boston for more hospital treatment. This included a bone marrow transplant; his then 18-year-old brother Will courageously stepped in as his donor.

In January 2020, Capalbo was able to resume his studies at Fairfield, finishing the semester via Zoom amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. Academically thriving, the following semester he was named to the Dean’s List of the Charles F. Dolan School of Business. But shortly thereafter, in January 2021, Capalbo received a third diagnosis and needed more treatment.

Immediately, Stags on campus began brainstorming ways to jump into action and join the ongoing community-wide show of support for their fellow student.

Since his first diagnosis in 2017, friends and family have banded together in a “Capalbo Strong” campaign. Local businesses have organized fundraisers for the family. Fairfield town residents leave hockey sticks on their doorsteps to stand in solidarity. Capalbo has received support via personalized #CapalboStrong social media shout-out messages from hockey players at both the collegiate and professional levels. Noteworthy players like Adam Fox from the New York Rangers and Nick Foligno, captain of the Columbus Blue Jackets, continue to send him video messages with words of encouragement. It’s evident that Capalbo has an incredible support system at his back.

Friends in Stag Country joined this “Capalbo Strong” movement with a social media campaign called the #CapalboStrong Challenge.


Completing the #CapalboStrong Challenge (above) are: University President Mark R. Nemec and his wife Suzy, Club Baseball, and Club Hockey.

The Challenge requires the completion of 22 push-ups in Capalbo’s honor — to commemorate his place in the Fairfield University Class of 2022 — and the upload of a video of the feat to a social media platform, with #CapalboStrong and #FairfieldU written in the caption of the post.

Within the video, participants typically state their name, accept the challenge, offer a statement of support, and tag two new nominees to keep the #CapalboStrong Challenge going. In its first month, the campaign garnered more than 120,000 impressions online, reaching the newsfeeds of many within the Fairfield community and beyond.

The 22-push-up challenge kicked off in early March with Fairfield’s club hockey team — a nod to Capalbo’s passion for the sport. Since then, hundreds of Fairfield students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends have answered the call in more than 50 videos. The #CapalboStrong Challenge even caught the attention of Town of Fairfield First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick, many of Capalbo’s doctors and nurses, and various members of the University’s senior leadership team, including University President Mark R. Nemec, PhD, and his wife Suzy.

“I nearly cried when I saw the President of Fairfield U and his wife doing the challenge,” Capalbo said. “I have seen photos with ‘Capalbo Strong’ lawn signs, and a profile in The Fairfield Mirror. Groups of students have shaved their heads in solidarity — there was even a hot dog eating challenge! All of it reminds me on a daily basis that I have a whole Stag family in my corner, even though from afar.”

“This is my third battle, but I intend to get better and come back to Fairfield U to rejoin my Stag family,” added Capalbo. “I want everyone to know that they are a big part of my recovery-in-progress.”

Other Articles in the Summer 2021 Issue

Letter from the President

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On the Mound

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Fighting Back

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From Raj to Republic

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Our Common Home

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Alumni Profile: Alexis Yannone '20 RN

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Alumni Profile: Erica (Trombly) Harp ’14, RN – BSN, CPLC

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Donor Profile: Shannon (Barry) and Steve J. Siwinski ’92, P’16

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