OTTAWA – It is said the bond between a mother and son is special and nothing exemplifies that more than Nick Foligno’s gesture to honour the memory of his mother, Janis.
Foligno, a forward with the Ottawa Senators, lost his mother last summer after a long battle with breast cancer. But she is never far from his thoughts.
This season Foligno had a patch sewn into his hockey pants with his mother’s initials and the pink ribbon, which is used to identify breast cancer support.
The third of four children, Foligno is quick to acknowledge he owes much of his success to his mother’s unfailing support and encouragement. And while she may no longer be able to share in his daily triumphs, she is always close by.
“I go out there and think about her every game, every practice,” said Foligno. “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about her.
“She’s definitely extra motivation for when I’m out on the ice and I want to make her proud.”
The patch was made by a friend of Foligno’s in Sudbury, Ont., and he plans on keeping it on his equipment as a daily reminder.
The 21-year-old also plans on carrying on her legacy by showing much of the same characteristics that made his mother a much-loved and respected individual everywhere she went.
“My mom was a very caring woman,” he says. “That’s something she’s passed on to me.
“It’s respect for yourself and for others. She put care into everything she did.”
Foligno says the family has rallied through the loss and it has brought them closer together, which he says is yet another credit to his mother.
“We were moving around a lot when we were younger and our family was our friends until we got to know people,” he said. “It’s amazing the kind of maturity I’ve seen in all my siblings and I can’t imagine what my father is going through.
“I’m sure he looks at all of us and sees a little bit of my mother in us. It’s been great to have each other.”
But perhaps most of all, Foligno wants to show the same strength of character his mother displayed throughout her battle with cancer.
“The biggest thing was probably how hard she fought to stay alive,” said Foligno. “I don’t think anyone realizes the battle they go through.
“You’re not fighting anyone else, you’re fighting yourself and it was incredible to watch her. She was a miracle in my eyes.
“It makes me work that much harder. Nothing can be too hard especially when you’re not dealing with an illness like that, so it definitely puts life in perspective and makes you appreciate that you’re healthy, you’re happy and you’re able to play the game you love for a living.”
The Foligno family has established a trust fund in Janis’s memory and plan on using money raised to support the various charities that were close to her heart, including breast cancer.
“You don’t want to see any other family go through what my family went through this summer,” said Foligno. “It’s hard to deal with obviously, but hopefully we’ll find a cure for it.
“We just want to bring awareness for it.”
And while the pain of the loss remains at the forefront of his everyday thoughts Foligno says his teammates have offered a comforting refuge.
“I look at these guys like another family,” he said. “It’s so nice to come to the rink and you kind of get distracted and it helps you forget about the worries and troubles in your life. They’ve been unbelievable.”
Since joining the Senators last season, Foligno has developed a strong friendship with teammate Mike Fisher, who also had the patch sewn into his pants as a sign of support for Foligno and his family.
“We all think it’s a tough time for Nick and what he went through,” said Fisher. “It’s kind of a symbol and she was obviously a big fan and she helped Nick along the way and I’m proud to be able to wear it in her honour.”
October is Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Month and on Oct. 15 the Senators will host various promotions throughout their game against the Tampa Bay Lightning to raise funds for local cancer charities.