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Nick Foligno, family donate $1 million to hospitals

Blue Jackets captain, wife raising awareness for congenital heart defects

by Craig Merz / Correspondent

COLUMBUS -- Columbus Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno and his wife, Janelle, were reticent to make public the matching donations to two hospitals that took care of their daughter's congenital heart defect nearly three years ago, but changed their minds for a good reason.

The Folignos stood in the Magic Forest area of Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus on Tuesday and announced a $1 million gift to honor Milana, who will turn 3 on Friday. The donation will be split between the hospital, where Milana was first diagnosed, and Boston Children's Hospital, where a surgical heart procedure was performed when she was three weeks old.

"We wanted to do it anonymously, but when both hospitals voiced that this could make such an impact and was such a good cause for other people, we decided to do it publicly," Janelle Foligno said. "We're really happy with our decision, and hopefully we can bring a lot of awareness to congenital heart defects and to both hospitals and the amazing work both are doing and many hospitals all over the world are doing."

The gift at Nationwide will be directed to The Center for Cardiovascular Research, which will house the newly named Foligno Family Cardiovascular Research Lab. Also, the Cardiac Neurodevelopment Program will benefit. The funds will go to research in Boston as well.

"Today, you demonstrated through your commitment not only to us as institutions and as physicians, but to the rest of the world in saying we need to help children with congenital heart defects," said Dr. Sitaram Emani, Associate in Cardiac Surgery at Boston Children's Hospital and the doctor who performed Milana's surgery.

"How can we help people who are going to be in a similar situation?" Nick Foligno said. "We're so proud as a family to tell our story and bring awareness to what's going on in the world with our young ones. We're not the only family affected by this. To try and help others is something that's important to us."

Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson and general manager Jarmo Kekalainen, along with six of Foligno's teammates, attended the ceremony.

"I have a very special place in my heart for Columbus and Boston, because of the procedure they did there, but Columbus especially," Nick Foligno said. "This place is home for me. I want people to know I care dearly about this place. Probably the best place to start is with our children and giving back here."

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