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Wild's Marcus Foligno keeps his mother's legacy alive

Minnesota Wild forward Marcus Foligno (17) skates with puck past Carolina Hurricanes defensemen Hayden Fleury (4) during the third period Oct. 7 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C.Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

ST. PAUL — July 27, 2009, will always remain seared into Marcus Foligno's memory. That was the day he lost his mother, Janis, to a six-year battle with breast cancer.

"It's been eight years now," Foligno said before pausing to compose himself. "It still feels like it was yesterday."

Janis Foligno was 47 years old.

"There's not a day that I don't wake up and think about her," Foligno said. "She was a huge part of my life. I think it hits me even more now that I'm trying to start a family and I think about how nice it'd be to have her still around."

Foligno and the rest his family — father Mike, brother Nick, and sisters Cara and Lisa — have tried their best to keep her memory alive.

A year after her death, the family started the Janis Foligno Foundation to help fund cancer research and assist families, particularly around Sudbury, Ontario.

"We wanted to give back to Northern Ontario," Foligno said. "You know, Sudbury is kind of the hub for Northern Ontario, and a lot of people there have to go all the way down to Toronto to get treatment."

Foligno knows that four-hour drive can be taxing on patients and their families; he wanted to help make sure that wasn't always the only option.

"We realized that in some of the hospitals (in Sudbury) there weren't some of the machines used for early detection, so our goal was to buy one of those machines," Foligno said. "I think in Year 2 we were able to raise enough money and we bought one for Sudbury, and that generated kind of a lot of people starting to go there to get treatment."

Aside from being able help families, Foligno said, the foundation is important to his own family because of what it represents.

"It's something that makes sure her legacy keeps going on," he said. "You know, something she instilled in us from a young age was those characteristics of being a good person and things like that. We just continue to try to do right by her."

Foligno planned to honor his mother during Tuesday's game against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Xcel Energy Center, the annual Hockey Fights Cancer night for the Wild.

He filled out a placard before leaving Tuesday's morning skate and planned to wear a patch with his mother's initials "JF" underneath his chest protector during Tuesday's game.

"Obviously, I've been through a few of these now and it kind of makes it a little bit more of a special night," he said. "It just kind of makes me remember her a little bit more than I usually do on certain days. It surrounds everyone with a lot of people who have gone through the same thing you've gone through. A night like tonight is going to be special. It always is."