Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo steps up to the plate for ailing kids with his second annual winter comedy event, Laugh-Off for Cancer.
At last year’s inaugural Laugh-Off for Cancer, the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation raised $140,000.
Anthony Rizzo has made a big impression during his four seasons as a Chicago Cub, twice being named a league All-Star and helping carry the team to the 2015 National League Championship Series. But the 26-year-old Rizzo, a survivor of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, is an even bigger hero to the young patients at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, whom he frequently visits to offer support and smiles as part of his Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation. As he prepares for the next foundation fundraiser, Laugh-Off for Cancer (a comedy night featuring notable comics as well as some of Rizzo’s Cub teammates), number 44 opens up about his mission to give back, improve kids’ lives, and ultimately knock cancer out of the park.
What was the biggest challenge for you when you were going through Hodgkin’s yourself?
Besides physically not being able to play baseball, it was seeing the impact cancer had on my family. It was an extremely difficult time: While I was undergoing treatment, my grandma was battling breast cancer. I knew I had to be strong for everyone.
Even during the 2015 playoffs, you visited cancer patients in the hospital. Why is this cause so important to you?
It’s important for me to make kids smile when I visit them; I feel like it gives them a chance to forget everything for a few minutes and allows them to just be kids again. These kids are the true heroes who are fighting every day. I like to tell them to stay strong and dream big.
What was your favorite part of last year’s Laugh-Off? The improv portion with actors from The Second City. It was great to watch my teammates let loose a little and have fun onstage, and we raised $140,000 for families battling cancer.
Did any of your teammates surprise you with their comic ability? We have a bunch of funny guys on the team, and it showed onstage. Ryan Dempster is always awesome to watch; I wasn’t surprised that he had the crowd laughing.
What’s your proudest accomplishment with your foundation? One big accomplishment this year was the opening of the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation Hospitality Room at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. I make frequent visits there, so having a room with the foundation’s name on it is truly special.
Laugh-Off for Cancer takes place January 14 at Studio Paris, 59 W. Hubbard St., Second Fl. For tickets, which are $150, visit rizzo44.com