FAIRFIELD - At one end of the field, the Ludlowe boys’ lacrosse team warmed up wearing white T-shirts. At the other end, Greenwich went through its pre-game routines, wearing black T-shirts.

Different colors but the same message.

On the front of the shirt it read, “Charlie’s Wingman” and on the back were the words, “Check-6 … For Charlie.” Both teams - and a lot of other people who were also wearing that same T-shirt - showing solidarity for a young man who is fighting cancer.

Just over a month ago, Fairfield co-op hockey goaltender Charlie Capalbo, who attends Ludlowe High School, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoblastic lymphoma T-cell Stage 3 cancer. He has just completed the first 28-day “induction” phase and according to Charlie’s father Anthony, doctors at Yale-New Haven Hospital have noticed that the tumor - located between his heart and his right lung - has shrunk somewhat but there is still a long way to go.

“They’ve noticed that it’s definitely shrunk,” Anthony Capalbo said at the lacrosse game on April 22 where the proceeds benefited Charlie. “We just don’t have the formal report yet. (Charlie) had PET-scans on Thursday night (April 20) and we had a quick conversation (with the doctors) on Friday and the fever started so we didn’t get the full report but they’re pleased that the large mass is shrinking.”

Capalbo was admitted to Yale-New Haven Hospital on April 21 with a fever, according to Anthony Capalbo but came home on Monday.

Capalbo was scheduled for another chemo treatment Tuesday via a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) and the family was also scheduled to meet with the doctors to discuss the PET scans that were taken last Thursday.

Now that the initial induction phase is complete, Capalbo now begins his next 28-day phase called “consolidation,” according to his mother Jennifer. This phase consists of a lumbar puncture every week and adds in three new stronger chemo drugs.

“This is a complicated phase of treatment,” Jennifer wrote in an e-mail. “But on the bright side, the intense steroids are done for now.”

The benefit lacrosse game - won by Greenwich 12-7 - raised money to help offset Capalbo’s medical expenses. One of the first fundraisers, a T-shirt with “Capalbo Strong” on the front, raised $6,000. The Greenwich team is also hosting a fundraiser.

“We’re donating to two causes, a cancer awareness game against Stamford and this one, so for Ludlowe, it will come out to around $2,000 dollars,” Cardinals coach Bob Lutz said. “We were happy to help and it’s worked out.”

While Capalbo’s connections in the hockey community are strong, they are equally strong in the lacrosse community. Lutz lives in Fairfield, so he’s been able to stay abreast of the Capalbo’s fight and his JV coach, Frank Wells, is related to the Capalbo’s. And Charlie’s brother Will, is a sophomore on the Falcons’ lacrosse team.

As a tribute, Parisi put Will into the starting lineup against the Cardinals.

“To have Will start today was a thrill for us and we really worked to try and bring as much of his (Charlie’s) spirit to this as we could,” Parisi said. “But when you’re playing one the of elite teams in the state, we just did all the things that we could possibly do, it just wasn’t enough.”

Meanwhile, everyone continues to deal with the stunning news.

“It was a shock to all of us and it happened right at the start of our preseason. So, for us, today meant a ton. It meant everything as a family,” Parisi said. “We’ve already preached family and community and the lacrosse community showed up today with all that Greenwich did and we thank them for that.”

Because Lutz knows how important these teaching moments are.

“These kids are all at the age where they have that immortal attitude,” Lutz said. “And it does really, hit home because they’re all student-athletes that are looking forward to going to college and having fun and not realizing that, in a split second, it could get taken away from you.”

And for Charlie, it almost did.

“I’ll never forget it, we were coming off the practice field and (Will) told me, ‘Coach, I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be able to be around because there’s some stuff going on with Charlie,’ I had taught Charlie last year and it was just shocking,” Parisi said. “Will’s been a trooper the family’s been great, they’re such quality people, they’ve handled everything with dignity and class. They’re giving us such inspiration. For the family, I’m proud that we could at least put out some kind of effort out here. Our kids put out everything they could today.”

celsberry@ctpost.com

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