Lakers team up to ‘Fight for Folgs’

When Mike Folga was diagnosed with a rare cancer just before Thanksgiving, it didn’t take long for the Mercyhurst community to spring into action.

New Athletic Director Brad Davis had met Folga only a few times since arriving on campus last fall, but said it was immediately obvious how critical Folga has been to Laker hockey over the past 19 years and how much he means to Laker Athletics. “You just want to do whatever you can to help.”

Davis spearheaded a full-day benefit dubbed “Fighting for Folgs” to support Folga and his family. The Jan. 26 event exceeded expectations, bringing in nearly $50,000. Both the men’s and women’s hockey teams played at home that day, and all ticket revenues from the huge crowds went to the cause.
All the players wore specially designed Fighting for Folgs jerseys that were later raffled off to raise more money. Coincidentally, a player for American International College – the men’s opponent that day – was battling cancer, so the men’s jerseys featured a patch honoring AIC’s Eric Otto as well.

Also benefitting the cause were t-shirt sales, raffles, online donations, and even a “soup crawl” staged by Parkhurst Dining Services between the two hockey games. A big silent auction featured autographed memorabilia donated by National Hockey League Hall of Famers Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and others. Teams and athletes from all over the country – many of whom had personal ties to Folga from his days working for the NHL’s New York Rangers and other teams – sent donations. (Folga was the equipment manager for the Rangers when they won the Stanley Cup in 1994. It took 20 years, but he finally got his traditional “Day with the Cup” in 2014 here at Mercyhurst.)

Folga wasn’t crazy about being the center of attention on “Fighting for Folgs Day,” noted men’s hockey coach Rick Gotkin, who worked with Davis to make the event happen. “He’s spent his whole career staying out of the limelight himself, and working to make other people look good,” he said. Folga was able to drop the ceremonial pucks before both games and briefly addressed those who had come out to honor him. He also visited with both Laker teams in their dressing rooms, an emotional moment for all of them.

Gotkin has insisted on driving Folga to all his appointments as he continues treatment at the Cleveland Clinic, but won’t accept any credit for helping out. “I’m being selfish,” he insisted. “I like being with Mike and Kay (Mike’s wife) and spending time with people I love. He’s touched all our lives in so many ways. He’s just a good, good man.”

In Folga’s absence, everyone has stepped up to try to fill the void, notably Head Athletic Trainer Andy Simon-Wambach and Assistant Athletic Trainer Trish Dimatteo, he said. “Until we didn’t have Mike, we didn’t realize all the things that Mike just seamlessly did for our programs – from sharpening skates to doing the team laundry.”

He added that he’s not at all surprised by how Mercyhurst people have reacted to Folga’s situation. “The greatest asset Mercyhurst has is its people,” he said. “They make Mercyhurst the special place it is.”

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