Rizzo event raises $200K for pediatric cancer

Rizzo event raises $200K for pediatric cancer

PARKLAND, Fla. -- Rain held off Sunday morning for the fourth annual Anthony Rizzo "Walk Off for Cancer" at Pine Trails Park, with the event raising more than $200,000 for pediatric cancer research and providing support to children and their families battling the disease.

With Sunday's event, the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation now has raised more than $1 million. The first Walk Off -- a 5K walk around the tree-lined park in Rizzo's hometown -- was the inaugural event for the foundation.

"Four years later, $1 million later -- we couldn't have pictured this," Rizzo said.

The Cubs' first baseman knows firsthand the importance of helping families. Rizzo was diagnosed with limited state classical Hodgkin's lymphoma in April 2008 while a Minor Leaguer in the Red Sox's organization. Now 26, Rizzo is a two-time All-Star and was in the mix for the National League Most Valuable Player Award this season after batting .278 with 31 homers, 38 doubles and 101 RBIs.

Rizzo's message to the children he meets in his regular hospital visits is that if he can beat cancer, so can they.

"The big thing is Anthony's setting an example, he's saying, 'I was there, I know what it's like to be sick and I want to support the kids who are sick now,'" said Don Eachus, director of development at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital in Hollywood, Fla. "He understands what it was like -- he was there. He knows what it's like to be a patient. He remembers, because he was older at the time, what his parents went through. He wants to make it as good as it can be for the children locally."

Among the hundreds taking part in the walk were 10 families from the hospital, representing different patients.

The event is definitely a family affair, with Rizzo's father, John, and mother, Laurie, brother John and sister-in-law helping to coordinate things. Anthony's dad reminded the crowd that his son had predicted the Cubs would get to the postseason last January, and the team did, reaching the NL Championship Series.

"I think, very soon, with guys like Anthony, that we'll have a World Series in Chicago," John Sr. said.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.