MSD alumni Anthony Rizzo hosts 11th Annual Walk-Off for Cancer and raises over $1.2 million

Kate Becker and Reece Gary

The Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation raised over $1.2 million leading up to the 11th Annual Walk-Off for Cancer on Saturday, Dec. 3. Over 1,000 people attended, walked and donated to the charity event at Pine Trails Park hosted by MLB first baseman and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School alumni Anthony Rizzo.

“[The walk] was a lot of fun, and through [the] 11 years, the support is always strong.” Rizzo said. “It feels good to be a part of this and have this type of turnout.”

Registration for the walk began at 7:30 a.m. with participants doing so through the foundation’s website or on-site at the walks entrance. By the start of the walk, registration hit its maximum number of 1,000 available participants. Along with entry to the walk, walkers were given a complimentary gift bag that included an event t-shirt, New York Yankees hat and Nike drawstring bag.

At 8:30 a.m., the event’s festivities began with Rizzo giving a speech on the stage of the Pine Trails Park amphitheater about the walk and thanking the participants, donors and sponsors. Inflatables, cornhole and other activities were set up by i9 Sports for participants of all ages to play before and after the walk, along with stands passing out food and drinks from Dunkin’ Donuts and BodyArmor.

Additionally, participants were able to enter raffles for signed Anthony Rizzo memorabilia. Close friend of Rizzo, Adam Bassell was among the winners.

The walkers began the 5-kilometer track around the park and Parkland neighborhoods at 9:00 a.m.. The streets of the walkers path were blocked off and guarded by police officers to ensure a safe track for the participants.

Soon after 10:00 a.m., Rizzo and the walkers began to reenter the Pine Trails Park grounds, crossing the finish line. In the following hour, walkers lined up for photo opportunities with Rizzo while also receiving complimentary sandwiches provided by Harvest Seasonal Grill and Wine Bar.

Annually, Parkland residents and people from across the United States come together for the cancer walk. Throughout the event’s entirety, walkers enjoyed the crowd and festivities while contributing to Rizzo’s charity.

“The event was absolutely fantastic, and we’ve been coming for the past five years.” participant Gary Kirshenbaum said. “We actually live in Chicago, but we came down to walk in the Rizzo event.”

Rizzo, a former Parkland resident, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of cancer within the immune system, in 2008 while early in his baseball career. After six months of chemotherapy treatment, Rizzo surpassed his cancer diagnosis and has since recovered in remission, leading to a successful Major League Baseball career including a World Series victory with the Chicago Cubs and recent signing of a contract with the New York Yankees.

In 2012, Rizzo and his family founded the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation to raise money for cancer research and treatment. Hosting the cancer walk every year since back in his home town of Parkland, Rizzo’s charity has consistently raised millions of dollars annually, including this year’s $1.2 million addition.

With every year bringing in lots of people and donations, Rizzo, his family and other foundation partners continually express their gratitude for the event turnout. Despite 2020’s walk being held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the walks of the past two years have seen record numbers of participants and a growing popularity of the event.

“[The turnout] was fantastic; it was great to see a lot of people back out here again.” Rizzo’s agent Mark Pollack said. “After Covid, it slowed down a little bit, but we were still able to get everybody back on board and have a lot of people here today, making it a really great event. Everybody stepped up and has stuck with us through Covid and everything.”

Receiving over $1.2 million in donations, the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation also organized incentives for their top donors, including autographed memorabilia, mention on stage by Rizzo and tickets to a MLB game during the 2023 season. The walk’s top individual donor was the Morency family and the top team donor was Iron Ethan’s Champs, raising over $50,000 representing cancer survivor Ethan Hugins.

“The Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation, Anthony and his family have done an amazing job keeping all of our sponsors going during the last several years.” Pollack said. “Everybody’s back in full force and it’s been great. We’ve had a lot of support. Our sponsors, especially the Levinson family, Steeneck family and Tom O’Reilly Family Foundation, really stepped up and helped us out a lot.”

Along with Rizzo and his foundation, the walk is run and organized by volunteers from across the Parkland community, including members of MSD’s current varsity and junior varsity baseball teams. Volunteers are eager to assist in the walk and support Rizzo’s cause, contributing greatly towards the event’s fun and execution.

“This is the 11th Annual Walk-Off for Cancer with the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation, and I’ve been djing and hosting it since day one,” event dj Alex Meyers said. “It’s all about good people doing good things.”

Under the slogan, “Help Us Knock Cancer Out of the Park,” the 11th Annual Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation Walk-Off for Cancer was a success, bringing together the Parkland community for a charitable cause. Rizzo, along with all of the event’s participants, sponsors and assistants look forward to next year’s walk, as well as Rizzo’s upcoming 2023 season with the New York Yankees.