For years, Mitch Marner was inspired by Hayden Foulon’s fight against cancer, and he hopes to pay tribute to her memory with a memorable season.
On Sunday night, Hayden’s mother Lindsay posted on Facebook that the seven-year-old passed away after battling leukemia for the past six years.
Marner met Hayden back in 2015 during his time with the London Knights, when the team would visit the children’s hospital in London. He had kept in touch with the family and invited her to a Leafs home opener. He also sent her a special canvas with his autograph.
Ahead of puck drop between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday, Marner shared how important his friendship with Hayden felt to him and how he won’t forget the impact she had on his life.
“Since I met her in London she’s always been someone close and special to me. Always someone, whenever you see her, she put a smile on your face,” said Marner to Sportsnet’s Shawn McKenzie. “Obviously, my thoughts are with her family and she will never be forgotten in a lot of our hearts since she meant a lot to everybody. It’s a sad day, and this year will be for her now. (She’s) someone I’ll always remember.”
The 22-year-old tweeted out a message on Monday after hearing the news, stating how much he was inspired by her battle.
Foulon, a London, Ont., native, was diagnosed with cancer when she was 22 months old and had gone through different treatments and chemotherapy. Hayden was declared cancer-free back in 2018, but found out it had returned in a follow-up appointment months later.