Major League Lymphoma Survivor Donates $650,000 for Teen Program at Sylvester

The Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation recently made a generous $650,000 pledge to the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Health System to help adolescents batting cancer and to promote cancer research. Rizzo, the founder of the Foundation, is a three-time, All-Star first baseman for Major League Baseball’s Chicago Cubs and a nine-year survivor of lymphoma, who was treated at Sylvester in 2008.

A significant portion of the donation — $500,000 — will go toward creating The Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation Hope 44 Program, an innovative program to assist children and young adults waging their own battle with cancer by providing one-on-one counseling and other support to ensure families have the resources they need to care for a child with cancer. The program is named for Rizzo’s jersey number — 44.

The pledge also includes an additional $150,000 in support for Izidore Lossos, M.D., director of the Lymphoma Program at Sylvester, and his research in the Pathogenesis of Lymphoma fund.

“I am proud to support the University of Miami and the incredible work they are doing to find a cure for cancer,” said Rizzo. “Sylvester will always have a special place in my heart, and I am honored to be able to give back and create the Hope 44 program there to insure every family has a fighting chance.”

Rizzo was just 18 years old and working his way up to the major leagues when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2008. The news hit him and his family hard, but after six months of chemotherapy at Sylvester, Rizzo was in remission.

Thanks to the medical care he received, which was led by Lossos, Rizzo realized he wanted to give back to help cancer patients and their families.

In 2012, he and his family created the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation to help raise money for cancer research and to provide support to children and their family members battling the disease. Since then, the ballplayer has become a generous philanthropist in the wake of his battle with cancer.

His generosity includes nearly $1 million dollars in support to Sylvester. In 2014, the waiting room at the Hematology Oncology Clinic at Sylvester was named the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation Hematology Oncology Waiting Room in honor of the Foundation’s $250,000 gift to Sylvester to support Lossos’ research. His focus is on studies of lymphoma, with a primary interest in understanding the mechanisms of lymphoma pathogenesis, identification of aberrant signaling pathways, and identification of novel genes that may have a unique role in this disease.

“The donation is wonderful,” said Lossos during an earlier interview. “But for me, the most important fact is that I first saw Anthony as a teen who was most probably not going to have a chance to play. Now he is playing, and that is a pleasure to see.”

A South Florida native, Rizzo was drafted out of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland in 2007 by the Boston Red Sox organization. A year later, he was fulfilling his dream of playing professional baseball as a Single A player when he was diagnosed with cancer. Doctors in Boston advised him to return to South Florida to be treated at Sylvester.

The Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation hosts several events each year, including the “Walk Off For Cancer” 5K charity walk in Parkland and the “Laugh Off For Cancer” and “Cook Off For Cancer,” both of which are held in Chicago.

More information about the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation is available here.

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