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Folignos' gift means hope for more families

Their $1 million donation will aid congenital cardiovascular research efforts

by Alison Lukan @AlisonL /

Nick Foligno Gives Back

Foligno announces a historic donation of $1,000,000

Nick Foligno announces a historic donation of $1,000,000 to Nationwide Children's & Boston Children's Hospitals

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Milana Foligno spent Tuesday afternoon doing things that normal three-year-olds do. She played with stickers, sat on her mommy's lap, made funny faces with her daddy, and smiled for pictures.

It's the desire for more children to have such equally normal days that motivated Milana's parents, Nick and Janelle, to make a donation of $1 million split between Nationwide Children's Hospital and Boston Children's Hospital.

After all, those places were integral in saving Milana's life.

When Milana was a day old, the doctors at Nationwide Children's performed a test that can only be conducted in a few states, including Ohio. The test diagnosed Milana's congenital heart defect, and 21 days into the little girl's life, she had open-heart, life-saving surgery in Boston.

"What (these doctors) have done has changed the game in fetal and pediatric cardiology," Janelle said. "It was important for us to bring awareness to congenital heart defects and fetal cardiologies so families could create an understanding and have a chance to fight for their child."

The funds donated by the Folignos will be directed to the Center for Cardiovascular Research at Nationwide Children's and a newly named "Foligno Family Cardiovascular Research Lab." In Boston, the funds will support research work focused on fetal cardiology and advances in valve replacement like the procedure Milana had.

While the Folignos announced their donation this week, they've known for a while they wanted to help others facing the same challenges they had faced with their daughter's health.

As Milana stabilized, and she was joined by her now one-year-old brother, Landon, the Folignos decided the time was right to help others have the same happy ending they were enjoying.

With the help of both hospitals, and Kathryn Dobbs of the Blue Jackets Foundation, they developed the plan for a gift that would not just make an impact now, but well into future generations.

"We asked ourselves 'how can we make this substantial amount really mean something?" Nick said. "I think research is so important because it's the way of the future and how you're going to get better and how everyone gets better. We looked at the research both doctors in Boston were doing and the research here, and we felt that's where you're going to see the most progress and a lot of things really come from it."

Funding research to address the disease was important - but so was shining a spotlight on something that, according to Jim Digan, President of Nationwide Children's Hospital Foundation is the most common birth defect and affects one percent of the population. That was another reason the Folignos chose to make their announcement public.

"The care Milana continues to receive is nothing short of amazing," Janelle said. "It warms my heart the doctors care so much. We want to help more families in a similar situation and bring light to both hospitals."

The Folignos are buoyed by advancements they can already point to in the treatment for congenital heart defects. The surgery Milana had in Boston is now also being performed at Nationwide Children's.

And Nick's eyes light up as he talks about his desire to help more families from right here in Columbus.

"I realized how much the community rallied around me when we were going through such a difficult thing," Nick said. "I have a very special place in my heart for Columbus. This place is home for me, and I want people to know I care dearly about this place and probably the best place to start is with our children and giving back here. I couldn't be more proud of being able to do that today."

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