Nick Foligno’s New Family Friendly Initiative: The Hearts Playbook

Imagine walking in the shoes of Columbus Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno for just a moment.

His story is well documented. From working his way up the NHL ranks and becoming a captain to everything that has happened off the ice, the Foligno family has been through many difficult trials and tribulations.

Daughter Milana went through two open-heart surgeries. Son Landon suffered a broken leg. Their other son Hudson had pneumonia and spent three weeks in the ICU. Hospital stays of many different lengths have been a norm.

During one of the stays, Nick’s wife Janelle was writing some things down on paper. It didn’t seem like much at the time. Perhaps it was just taking notes or journaling of some kind.

As it turns out, that was the start of something potentially big for the Foligno’s. Those notes over time have turned into a new social media initiative that Nick and Janelle have recently unveiled on Instagram.

Welcome to the Hearts Playbook.

Nick was kind enough to spend time with the Hockey Writers taking about this new initiative. While they are cautiously optimistic about where this goes, it is a work in progress and they can’t wait to see where it goes.

What Is The Hearts Playbook?

The Hearts Playbook was unveiled by the Foligno’s on Instagram on May 15. In their first post, they posted a family portrait of themselves saying “This is us. We’re the Foligno’s.”

The important part is at the bottom of their first post. “We created The Heart’s Playbook to bring together a platform to share our life’s work and how we navigate obstacles and opportunity in hopes it will give others hope, inspiration and support. We hope you enjoy following along.”

Through the brilliance of Janelle helping bring The Heart’s Playbook to life, the Foligno’s are making good use of social media while helping others along the way.

“We felt like there was a bigger platform out there to do something with this,” Foligno said. “If we can get the word out about all those things and use our platform to help people, I think we have a responsibility and a privilege to do that. I was really proud of her to think bigger than just her and wanting to help so many people which is one of the reasons why I’m so impressed with her and respect her so much. She’s always thinking of others. It’s turned into this.”

Thanks to the current pandemic we are living in, The Heart’s Playbook came to life much sooner than expected. Nick expected this to launch in the fall. But because they had more time on their hands, they were able to get things started now.

“We realized too what was going on in the world and how much positivity was needed. It sparked us to push this thing along. Hopefully it can be a light in a dark time,” Foligno said.

Whether it’s good advice, words of encouragement or even food recommendations for a family, those are the kind of things you’ll find with The Hearts Playbook. Through this initiative, the Foligno’s are letting people into their world to get a glimpse of what life is like for them. They hope what they have to share will make a difference in someone’s life.

To say that the Foligno’s are humbled by everything they’ve been through simply wouldn’t give it justice. They want to dedicate their lives to paying it forward. The best part is that you are invited to follow along on their journey.

“We’re so humbled by the support we’ve been given through everything. Now we hope to pay it forward and use this platform as a way to give back and to give hope, inspire and motivate. The book ties into it (Janelle’s book coming soon!). Our lifestyle ties into it. If we can make a difference in some small way for anyone that’s going through a hard time and could use some of the things we’ve gone through and learned as a way to get through their problems, then we feel like we’ve done our mission and we’ll continue to do so.”

Nick Foligno Columbus Blue Jackets
Nick Foligno is humbled by all the support he and his family has received over the years. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Learning From His Kids

Have you been through a tough experience and maybe you weren’t sure how to handle it? Or maybe you are just looking for fresh ideas. Or perhaps you are a parent and need some advice on how to go about a situation? Foligno has learned a lot from his kids over the years. Let him explain to you how learning from them is just as important as teaching them.

“That’s one thing I never realized (at first),” Foligno said. “As a parent you always think you gotta protect your kids. What we can learn going through this stuff is their strength that they give us. It’s incredible we’re here with Milana our daughter who’s gone through two open heart surgeries. You look at her and how she handles things. She knows what she’s going into. By the time last year rolled around, she knew what was going on and she just faced it head on. If this is what I have to do, then this is it.”

“I think sometimes we as adults overthink things or we don’t look at it as matter of fact as kids do. I think they’ve just taught us so much about life and how to handle certain adversities. We’ve been so inspired by them and all that they’ve gone through at such young ages, seeing how they fight and don’t give up. They live life to the fullest. We lose that sometimes with all the pressures in life. It’s such a great way to see the world through their eyes. One of the neatest things about being parents, the one thing we want to pass along to everybody is how much you can learn from your kids as much as you’re trying to teach them.”

Overcoming Fear of Social Media

Anyone who knows Nick or the Foligno’s know that they are private people. Nick has admitted being afraid of social media at different points. But to be able to do something like this, you have to put yourself out there. We asked Foligno what’s he’s learned about social media over the years that has helped him overcome any fears he had. He admits he’s still afraid of it. But he realizes if you’re going to do something like this on a grand scale, you have to go all in.

“You can’t dip your toe in,” Foligno said. “You have to be all in or all out. I learned that with social media too. If you’re passionate about what you’re trying to get across, you’re not pushing an agenda. You’re just trying to inspire. I think it’s an unbelievable platform. For me, I’m not about pushing my views on people. I’m not going to make people think that what I know is the be all, end all. It’s just another avenue for information. If anything, this pandemic has taught us how important proper information is. That’s something I’m always looking for during these times when you don’t know. I said if we can provide some information for families, for people that are going through hard times (that’s what we’re looking to do.)”

“Here’s us as a family of five. We go through normal trials and tribulations just like everyone else. I think it humanizes a lot of people where sometimes you get put on a pedestal as a hockey player and pro athlete. It brings you back down to a level which is the way we look at ourselves. That’s what I’ve appreciated about social media is it’s a way to get out information to people and also respect that not everyone sees the same things you do. But if you can aspire a small portion then our mission feels accomplished. We hope people enjoy what we have to say. We’re going to learn I’m sure as we go. That will be a fun journey to go on with everyone that’s interested and following us. We’re going to take this one step at a time.”

Nick Foligno Columbus Blue Jackets
Nick Foligno says he’s still afraid of social media but says you have to go all-in for something like this. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Importance of Staying Connected!

One would expect that Foligno is staying well connected during the pandemic given he’s part of a family of five and has many connections. But after the first week of the stay at home order, even Foligno was feeling the effects. If there’s anything we can learn from this, it’s that pro athletes are human just like me and you. They go through the same things and experience many of the same trials but we just don’t hear about them as much. Foligno was kind enough to open up about his feelings once the stay at home order got into full swing.

“I felt so disconnected after the first week,” Foligno recalled. “I realize when you bunker down, you got the fear of the world going on. It just felt very lonely. That’s what I talk about the mental health for people that are living alone and dealing with this pandemic. It’s hard. It’s hard on me and I have a wife and three kids to support and talk to. I wanted to use that platform as a way to stay connected with the fans and make people realize you are not alone.”

“People were asking for birthday wishes. I wanted to make sure I offered them. During the season, I’m not on Twitter. We’re too busy. We’re consumed in our lives. It was a way for me to show people that we’re there. This is human. It’s our responsibility to our fans and people in the world just to say we’re connected still. I know it’s scary but we’re going to get through it. I enjoyed really having that connection and keeping busy that way. It was therapy for me too. I hope to inspire others going through hard times. It will definitely help me as well.”

Foligno is absolutely right. We are all in this together. Being connected is as important as ever. We might not be able to connect in person at the moment, but we can stay connected anyway. Whether it’s a phone call, a text message or even virtual meetings, we can creatively overcome the challenge of being disconnected. Foligno has some sound advice for those that are looking for help overcoming things in different areas. I think we can all get behind this.

“My biggest advice is don’t be afraid to lean on people and know that nothing goes according to plan. There’s always going to be a wrench thrown into everything. I’ve learned that how we respond is the most important thing. You can have anything you want thrown at you, but it’s your response that’s going to dictate that outcome and what’s going to transpire either good or bad.”

“My son (Landon) breaks his leg, the worst timing ever when we’re dealing with so much stuff. And then you realize it’s a big thing for him. And our son Hudson fighting for his life with pneumonia and how he was able to bounce back. Don’t ever be ashamed in allowing other people to help when you’re going through a difficult time. Strength in numbers really helps and we’re not ashamed of it. It’s an amazing, powerful experience when you see the support you get. It helps you get through so many difficult times.”

Finding Your Passion & Gift

If there’s anything that is especially important to Foligno, it’s the importance of finding your meaning, your purpose and your gift. He believes our gifts should be shared with others. Many out there are still discovering those things in their journey. We asked Foligno for some advice to those that might still be searching for their gift. He says two very important things have helped to shape him into who he is today. It’s ok if you’re wrong on occasion and enjoy the whole process.

“If you embrace the journey you’re on, I think you’ll find you’ll like the outcome. You’ll like where you’re heading if you understand who you are. The journey that I’ve been on starting out as a single guy to a married man to a husband to a captain to a father. There’s been so many things that have changed me over the course of my life. I’ve become a better person because of my life experiences.”

“It’s ok if you take a wrong turn. It’s finding your way back and then you learn more about yourself. My wife and I have learned even in the worst times to enjoy that process because it makes you a better person when you get through it.”

Yes, This Has Food Tips Too

As we said earlier, The Hearts Playbook even has some creative food ideas. In a recent post on their Instagram account, the Foligno’s shared an easy guacamole recipe.

So as you can see by The Hearts Playbook, the Foligno’s are following their heart and sharing all kinds of ideas in order to help and inspire people. It’s their passion and it’s only going to get bigger from here. This could even be Foligno’s calling once he hangs up his skates.

“It’s a great avenue for post hockey to see if there’s something I can do with this. The hardest thing for an athlete is when things are done, what do you do next? I think this will inspire me and allow me to have something to fall back on when I’m done playing and continue to do the work that is so important to me. This is bigger than hockey. This is our lives. This is something I’m always going to be interested in. It gives me a chance to continue this work. It’s not just while I’m playing and then it’s done.”

“Hopefully it’s going to build into something where we can inspire and continue to work with people and in groups and make people aware of what’s out there. That’s something I’ve definitely thought about is being able to take this to another level when I’m done. That’s why it’s so nice to get it started organically now and just let it grow and see where this takes us.”

Come Join In The Journey

The Foligno’s would love to have you come along on their journey. You can follow them on Instagram under the handle “theheartsplaybook.” As of this writing, they have 1,100 followers and counting. You’ll see posts from both Nick and Janelle and there will be emphasis on their beautiful children.

As of this writing, they are discussing formal ways of reaching out to them should you have a question or comment you want to pass along. They will share that once a determination has been made.

Sometimes in life, it just takes one moment or one idea to help you overcome an obstacle. The Foligno’s hope that The Hearts Playbook will help you in your own path in life. If you follow your heart, amazing things will happen. This has shaped them into who they are today. And yet the journey is far from over.

The best is truly yet to come.