CBJ's Foligno honors mother on 'Hockey Fights Cancer' night
OCT 25, 2013 9:59a ET
"I have a black patch with a pink ribbon and (my mother's) initials on my shoulder pads – right over my heart," said Foligno. "It's there to remind me that she's with me and that I'm doing all of this for her."
Foligno's mother, Janis, lost her battle with breast cancer in 2009. That's when Foligno made the ribbon a permanent part of his game.
"She was probably the most caring, compassionate and selfless person I've ever known," said Foligno. "She always worried about others more than herself."
Tonight, Foligno will honor his mother's courageous battle with cancer during "Hockey Fights Cancer" night at Nationwide Arena when the Jackets take on the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Hockey, as it turns out, was a blessing for the Foligno family.
The Folignos were always focused on the game of hockey. Nick's father, Mike, played in the NHL before moving on to coach. Nick and his brother, Marcus, both played throughout their childhood and ended up on NHL rosters—Nick with the Jackets and Marcus with the Sabres.
To help the boys reach their goals, Janis was a devoted hockey mom who would always take Nick to games and provide constant support.
"When I needed her the most she was always there," said Foligno. "She was someone I could confide in and who was there to support me through the good and the bad."
As the Foligno family continued to build their hockey legacy, Janis was diagnosed with breast cancer. Soon, hockey became more than a game; it became therapy.
"It was a place you could go to where everything else went away. Hockey was my escape," said Foligno.
As Janis' illness progressed over a 5-year battle, she insisted that her husband and sons continue their involvement in the game. A game which often took them far away from home as she battled the disease.
"She did not want cancer to be her identity," said Foligno. "She wanted us to act as if everything was normal and watching us play hockey was life as normal. It was difficult not being able to be there for her, but she never complained once."
Having faced the loss of their mother, Foligno and his family were not content to stand aside and do nothing. Having two sisters and now a daughter has only intensified his drive to fight this disease.
"I worry about my sisters; I know they will need to be screened early," said Foligno. "And now as a parent, you worry even more—you want your child to be OK. You want there to always be something out there to help them get better."
So in 2010 the family created a Foundation in Janis' name that raises funds for research and treatment in northern Ontario. To date, the Foundation has raised almost $400,000.
Foligno's eyes light up when he shares their accomplishments.
"(My mom's) spirit needed to carry on," he said. "We're trying to find a cure – we're putting a lot of money into research and purchased a breast coil (a device that enables breast MRI's) to help with early detection."
For Foligno, the NHL's Hockey Fights Cancer is another way to give of himself in the fight to find a cure. The fact that it marries two of his passions only increases his motivation.
"I love (Hockey Fights Cancer). I think it's great," said Foligno. "For the NHL to get involved and understand this needs to be addressed is a great thing. Every guy in the locker room jumps on board because they really feel they can make a difference."
Foligno is hoping fans will join the fight as well. He hopes that when the team takes the ice tonight they will look up and see a sea of purple – the signature color of Hockey Fights Cancer.
"People are so supportive and so many people are affected by this disease. It's great to see us all band together and try to make a difference," said Foligno.
But don't think that the element of competition inside the locker room is gone just because the players are focused on charity. The team is auctioning off limited edition purple jerseys from each player—and who's sweater goes for the highest dollar is a prize.
Foligno is in third place at a $1,000 bid since bidding opened Wednesday. He's No. 3 only to Jack Johnson and Marian Gaborik.
"That's awesome," said Foligno. "I hope we raise enough money to help as much as we can – but hopefully I can sneak ahead of them."
For Foligno, finding motivation to fight the Maple Leafs, and cancer, will be easy. He'll remember the woman he still affectionately calls "a warrior."
"She's the reason why we're all where we are today," said Foligno. "I couldn't be more proud of the way she handled it and the type of person she was."
You can join in the Hockey Fights Cancer activities tonight at the Jackets game at Nationwide Arena. For more information, or to buy tickets, visit bluejackets.nhl.com.
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