CHICAGO – There was energy when he would step in, with a charge going through the air that was felt by those around him.
Fans would certainly have that anticipation as Anthony Rizzo stepped to the plate during his nine-and-a-half seasons with the Cubs. He was a three-time All-Star who was a part of a core that brought five playoff appearances in six seasons and a World Series championship to the franchise in 2016.
Allison Parise might have seen that at a game, but she saw it in a much different place since 2012 as well.
“Anthony was coming down the hall and you would feel the pulse of the unit go up,” said the nurse at Lurie Children’s Hospital, who watched Rizzo inspire a crowd there just as much as any at Wrigley Field.
As a cancer survivor himself, having beaten Hodgkin’s Lymphoma early in his baseball career, Rizzo made it a point to visit children who were dealing with the illness during his time with the Cubs.
“Anthony was a champion in my eyes long before he was ever a World Series champion,” said Parise, who talked about his contributions after he was traded to the Yankees on July 29th.
Having worked with children who were suffering from cancer, Parise said she first began to notice Rizzo visiting shortly after he was traded by the team early in 2012 as one of the first major players acquired by new team president Theo Epstein.
“Next thing I know he’s literally on my unit and I’m like ‘Hey, Anthony Rizzo,'” said Parise of the first time she noticed Rizzo stopping by to greet patients. “He’s such a personable, down-to-earth guy.”
For nearly a decade, Rizzo continued to pay visits to the children at Lurie Children’s Hospital to offer words of encouragement as they dealt with their cancer diagnosis. Through the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation, he would give monetarily to the hospital, including a $3.5 million endowment in 2017 that went to helping families dealing with financial hardships during treatment.
Yet it was the personal interactions that Parise said stood most out to her as Rizzo shared with patients battling cancer his story while also providing encouragement through difficult times.
“Having him at that stature still coming in and acting like the same Anthony who, like I said, was always a champion, but having him come in after the World Series he was still Anthony,” said Parise. “Which I absolutely love about him.”
Larry Hawley had more on Rizzo’s partnership with Lurie Children’s Hospital and his efforts to help patients there on WGN News Now, and you can watch that in the video above.