(Reuters) – Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs was named the recipient of the 2017 Roberto Clemente Award on Friday for his charitable work on behalf of children with cancer.
Rizzo’s selection was announced by Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred at a news conference prior to Game Three of the World Series between the Houston Astros and visiting Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Cubs first baseman has been a champion for pediatric cancer patients and their families, especially following his own experience as a survivor of Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Rizzo was a minor league player in the Boston Red Sox organization when he was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2008. Through treatment, he beat the disease, and has since devoted many hours to helping others.
“It means a lot to me when I go into a hospital room and say hello to a kid and they light up like a Christmas tree, for five minutes of escaping the reality, because they’re going through treatment,” said Rizzo.
“They’re battling for their lives and I‘m just grateful to be able to go in there and say hello to them and make them escape reality for a second.”
The Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation was created to support children and families battling the disease and fund cancer research.
Through Rizzo’s foundation, the “Hope 44 Fund” was launched and provides financial assistance to families to offset medical costs so no family has to choose between paying a bill and saving their child’s life.
Baseball Hall of Famer Clemente, a 15-time All-Star outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates, died in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve 1972 while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.
“Mr. Clemente was a true hero who dedicated his time to helping others. He set the bar high for what an athlete should be both on and off the field,” said Rizzo.
“As a cancer survivor, I know the challenges families face, watching loved ones fight this disease. I want to give them hope there is life after cancer.”
Reporting by Frank Pingue; Editing by Peter Rutherford