CHICAGO -- Kyle Schwarber saluted first responders, Anthony Rizzo and Jonathan Lester continued to help in the fight against cancer, Joe Maddon shaved his head and hosted a boxing event, and Theo Epstein played some music. All of the Cubs -- and more -- combined to do their part this year to give back. At Thanksgiving, it's a good time to say thanks for their efforts.
Schwarber, inspired by his father who was a police officer, began his Neighborhood Heroes campaign by hosting a block party in which $280,000 was raised. Schwarber also hosted first responders at Cubs games at Wrigley Field, delivered treats to veterans at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, and donated a television and more to a Chicago fire station.
Rizzo was honored this year for his humanitarian efforts, winning the Roberto Clemente Award and the Major League Baseball Players Association Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award. In 2017, the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation made a $3.5 million donation to Lurie Children's Hospital, which Rizzo visits once a month during the season. He raised $300,000 at his Laugh-Off for Cancer, $1.1 million at his Cook-Off for Cancer, and will host his sixth Walk-Off for Cancer on Dec. 3. He's also made generous contributions to the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital, where he received treatment himself.
Lester joined the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation to host his "Never Quit" event, and this year, the country music get-together in Chicago raised $600,000.
Outfielder Albert Almora Jr. started an "Intentional Walk" campaign to raise awareness for homeless or sheltered animals. Reliever Brian Duensing hosted a major fundraiser in Omaha, Neb., on Nov. 17, in his efforts to fight pediatric cancer. Catcher Willson Contreras took part in the Special Olympics' Rubber Ducky race in Chicago.
Cubs players participated in more than 100 community engagements in 2017, and Cubs wives also donated their time and hosted events, raising more than $70,000 for Cubs Charities.
This year, the Cubs offered the 2017 "All-Star Grant Program" for Lakeview schools. The team committed to matching up to $25,000 per school in support for their individual fundraising campaigns. As a result, the team granted $450,000 to Lakeview schools.
Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation got things started in Spring Training with its Respect Bald event in March in which players and staff shaved their heads. That event not only helped with haircuts but raised $70,000. Maddon also hosted a boxing event that featured several rounds of youth boxing at various skill levels and raised $230,000.
The Respect 90 Foundation is busy in November and December with its "Thanksmas" celebration, providing meals to the homeless. It's an event Maddon hosts in Tampa Bay and his hometown of Hazleton, Pa., as well as Chicago.
Epstein, the Cubs' president of baseball operations, also was busy, hosting Hot Stove Cool Music concerts in Boston and Chicago that raised more than $1 million combined. Epstein's Foundation To Be Named Later (FTBNL) also has pledged $150,000 to help launch The BASE in Chicago. Founded in 2013 in Boston, The BASE is an after-school baseball program that has tutored more than 1,500 young people, primarily African-American and Latino. They've raised $35 million in scholarships and produced six Major League Baseball prospects, including Cubs Minor Leaguer Calvin Graves.
Epstein and his twin brother, Paul, are co-founders of FTBNL. The BASE Chicago will adopt 400 kids from the Garfield Park league and try to raise $3 million from donors to rent or buy a 7,000-10,000-square foot facility to fund the program's first three years.