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Cubs' initiatives make positive mark on community

Players, organization bring needed attention, funds to charitable causes

CHICAGO -- Cubs players walked, posed, dined and donated their time this season in an effort to give back to those less fortunate, and their fans chipped in, as well.

First baseman Anthony Rizzo hosted his first Chicago fundraiser in August, a "Cook Off for Cancer," featuring local chefs who presented their take on traditional ballpark food. It was a huge success, as the Rizzo Family Foundation received more than $150,000 in donations.

Rizzo will celebrate five years of being cancer free with his second "Walk Off for Cancer" 5-kilometer walk on Dec. 15. His inaugural event in his hometown of Parkland, Fla., raised more than $100,000.

In January, the players and coaches served lunch for active-duty military and veterans in partnership with the USO at the 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Base. The visit was part of the Cubs Caravan tour, and allowed the players to say thanks to the servicemen and women.

Also in January, outfielder David DeJesus, his wife Kim and Cubs Charities held the first "Strike a Pose" celebrity fashion show to raise money for ALS research and support. The fight against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, was personal because Kim's high school friend was diagnosed with the disease.

Among the players who walked the runway were Rizzo, Darwin Barney, Shawn Camp, Tony Campana, Starlin Castro, Brett Jackson, Kerry Wood and Travis Wood. Even though DeJesus is now a member of the Rays, the event will be held again on Jan. 16, 2014.

The players weren't the only ones to participate in good causes. Chicago Cubs Charities donated more than $2.3 million in 2013 to Chicago-area non-profit organizations.

In July, Chicago Cubs Charities introduced the inaugural class of Cubs Scholars, a program that provides college scholarships to incoming high school seniors who are high achievers with demonstrated need. Five scholars were introduced and officially "signed" to the team. They received $20,000 toward the college of their choice, as well as ongoing mentoring and programming through the Cubs College Prep program -- which includes college counseling and support for five years with Chicago Scholars.

Cubs Charities also featured the first "Cubs on the Move" fitness trolley, a program designed to promote physical activity in the inner city. Cubs players and Laura Ricketts helped teach kids to play every day and work in 60 minutes of physical activity. Over 300 children took part in July.

More than 93,000 underprivileged children and families, veterans, non-profit organizations, children with special needs, and volunteers were treated to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field over the course of the season through ticket donations.

A new "Cubs Give Back" program allowed season ticketholders to donate their tickets to Cubs Charities, who worked with Illinois Mentoring Partnership to bring mentor pairs to the ballpark to enjoy a game.

Cubs fundraising events and donations raised more than $3.3 million in 2013 through the 50/50 Raffle and events such as the third annual Bricks and Ivy Ball, the Race to Wrigley 5K, Wrigley Field Road Tour, and Cubs Convention.

Cubs fans rallied in November to donate items for families devastated by the Nov. 17 tornadoes in downstate Illinois, and two trucks of goods were delivered to Peoria, Ill.

Besides the organized efforts, there was another example of giving back. Pitcher Carlos Villanueva and his wife, Arianna, donated their time and money to Casa de Luz in the Dominican Republic, a home to about 25 severely disabled children whose needs overwhelm their families. He's been able to arrange food and medical care for the kids.

"We don't gain anything back from this, just the satisfaction of seeing these kids," Villanueva said. "It breaks your heart when you go in there."

At Thanksgiving, it's a good time to say thanks to those who made the effort.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs, Anthony Rizzo, Carlos Villanueva