The first time Liam Hendriks walked by the Mayo Clinic Store, he knew what he needed to do. Stage 4 lymphoma had turned his life upside down.
He had yet to even begin treatment, and he was still thinking of others. Four months later, following successful chemotherapy and immunotherapy treatments, he walked into the store and said he wanted to purchase every wig in stock so he could donate them to those going through the same awful disease. This was his newest community, and it was incumbent on Liam to care for those within it.
For all of his success on the field as a two-time Reliever of the Year winner and three-time All-Star, Liam’s desire to create community -- to not simply give but become part of something greater -- is central to his mission to bring good into the world.
The community he focused on most this year was comprised of young adult cancer patients, which are too often neglected. Liam hopes to change that through public advocacy with the retelling of his story, as well as through tangible efforts to bring normalcy and joy to a disease that is so capable of robbing both.
Since his return to the field this year, Liam has hosted a young adult whose life was touched by cancer at every White Sox series, both home and away. Liam aims to help those whose stories often go unheard create new memories, forge friendships and feel alive.
In addition to his hands-on work, Liam partnered with the White Sox to help raise nearly $129,000 for lymphoma research through the sale of “Close Out Cancer” T-shirts. When he signed with the White Sox in 2021, Liam prioritized integrating himself into the greater Chicago community through charity, and though he has branched out with his cancer work, he remains committed to helping the Chicago community as a whole.
His work to support the local community began in 2021 with essential workers. In addition to police, firefighters and 911 operators, Liam and his wife, Kristi, supported foster care and animal rescue agencies and other welfare causes in the Chicago area. Each year, the couple donates more than $1 million of their own money to charities, either directly or through the South Slydah Society, a community outreach program Liam created in 2021.
The underserved are seminal to Liam’s objective. Liam has supported a number of communities through his philanthropy work -- ranging from donating thousands of meals during the pandemic to purchasing a wheelchair for a woman with ALS. Liam distributed pride flags for attendees of the White Sox’s Pride Night, assisted Ukrainian refugees in Chicago and helped fund horseback therapy for people with physical limitations. Liam doesn’t simply reach out to those communities. He joins them, meets them where they are, and through his fortunate position, endeavors to lift them up.
At the end of his speech after receiving the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at the ESPYs this year, Liam used the words of the award’s namesake to encompass his approach not just to giving back but to life itself: “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up. And I won’t.”
Liam is now 34. As much as anyone, he knows how fragile and precious a career in baseball is, how being part of the fraternity in Major League Baseball affords him opportunities granted to scant few others. He does not intend to take those for granted. Liam’s work within the communities he actively serves and his battle back to baseball, continue to inspire those around him to do the same, even during times of adversity.