Rizzo honored in hometown before annual 5K

Rizzo honored in hometown before annual 5K

PARKLAND, Fla. -- When Anthony Rizzo hosted his first Walk-Off for Cancer in 2012, the Cubs' first baseman was hoping to raise $30,000, and they totaled $100,000. On Sunday, the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation held its fifth annual five-kilometer walk, and they had raised more than $500,000 before anyone took a step at Pine Trails Park.

Sunday was officially Anthony Rizzo Appreciation Day in both Parkland and in Broward County. Former Parkland mayor and current county commissioner Michael Udine declared the holiday in Broward County in honor of the World Series champ.

"Anthony Rizzo is a hometown hero with a big heart," Udine said. "Through his event, he's raised more than $2.5 million for cancer research and to assist families and children battling cancer in Broward County."

More than 800 people took part in the first 5K walk, led by Rizzo, a cancer survivor himself. In April 2008 when he was a Minor Leaguer in the Red Sox's organization, Rizzo was diagnosed with limited stage classical Hodgkins' lymphoma, and beat it.

On Sunday, 1,600 people ignored the overcast skies and occasional drizzle to walk or run in the event.

Before the walk began, Rizzo's No. 7 was retired by his high school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. His mother, Laurie, pointed out that Rizzo had written in his high school yearbook that he wanted to win a World Series.

Parkland mayor Christine Hunschofsky remembers her son, Michael, meeting Rizzo for the first time 10 years ago when her son was 8 years old.

"We come to the walk every year because [the Rizzos] are such a good family and [Anthony's] achievements as a human being are just as great as what he does as a baseball player," Hunschofsky said.

Besides his own battle with the disease, Rizzo lost his grandmother to cancer, and his foundation focuses on trying to ease the burden not only on the patient but also their families. Mike Fiorello spoke at Sunday's event about his son Adam, who was diagnosed in December 2013 with a rare cancer, rhabdomyosarcoma. The Rizzo Foundation paid for travel expenses when Adam needed treatment in New York and also took care of a hospital room in Miami. Adam died this past March at the age of 22.

"He inspired me the entire year," Rizzo said of Adam.

The group that raised the most money for Sunday's walk was "Team G 23," created by Jon Greenseid in honor of his wife, Giulie, a leukemia patient, who is two years post transplant.

"I'm feeling strong enough to walk, so I'm happy about that and excited to be here," Giulie said.

Because of their efforts for the foundation, the Rizzos have treated the Coral Springs, Fla., family to tickets for a Cubs game at Wrigley Field.

Grace Solomon and several Parkland Little Leaguers presented Rizzo with a trophy as well.

"You've given every little boy and little girl in Parkland a role model on the field and most importantly, off the field," Solomon said.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. 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.