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Rizzo being honored for charity work ahead of event

Cubs first baseman to receive Branch Rickey Award, then host 'Walk off for Cancer'
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- On Friday, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo will be saluted for his charity work. On Sunday, he'll be busy raising money and awareness in the fight against cancer.

Rizzo, 25, will be presented the 2014 Branch Rickey Award on Friday in Denver. He's the youngest person to receive the award, presented annually to individuals in baseball who contribute unselfishly to their communities and who are strong role models for young people.

CHICAGO -- On Friday, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo will be saluted for his charity work. On Sunday, he'll be busy raising money and awareness in the fight against cancer.

Rizzo, 25, will be presented the 2014 Branch Rickey Award on Friday in Denver. He's the youngest person to receive the award, presented annually to individuals in baseball who contribute unselfishly to their communities and who are strong role models for young people.

Created by the Rotary Club of Denver in 1991, the award will be presented at a banquet at the McNichols Civic Center in Denver.

On Sunday, Rizzo will be back in his hometown of Parkland, Fla., to host his third "Walk Off for Cancer." The event has raised more than $100,000 in each of its first two years, and Rizzo's mother, Laurie, said Thursday that donations this year are up. Fans who can't attend the 5K walk at Pine Trails Park can still make a donation to Rizzo's foundation by going to www.rizzo44.com.

Last year, an Ohio mother and daughter drove 16 hours to participate in Rizzo's walk, and they are expected back on Sunday (although they are flying to Florida this year). A contingent of Cubs fans from Chicago are expected to take part in the walk again. Parkland Mayor Michael Udine also will present a check after pledging $25 for every home run Rizzo hit.

In 2012, Rizzo began the nonprofit Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation to raise money for cancer research and provide support to children and their families battling the disease. He knows first-hand the impact cancer can have after being diagnosed in 2008 with Hodgkins Lymphoma.

Through fundraising for research and providing support for pediatric cancer patients and their families, Rizzo's foundation aims to give every family a fighting chance against cancer.

The foundation has raised more than $500,000 through the walk in Florida and the "Cook-Off for Cancer" held in Chicago.

In addition, Rizzo makes monthly visits to the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago, and is a familiar face to those in the pediatric oncology floor, where he spends much of his time talking with patients and their families, signing autographs, taking photos and handing out Cubs memorabilia.

This has been quite the year for Rizzo, who rebounded from 2013, when he batted .233, to hit .286 with a career-high 32 home runs -- which Udine is well aware of. Rizzo also won the 2014 All-Star Final Vote campaign, and made his first trip to the All-Star Game.

"His commitment to the community and his teammates the last three seasons with the Cubs has made a tremendous impact within our organization," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said.

Rizzo was selected for the Branch Rickey Award by a national selection committee comprised of 400 members of the sports media, baseball executives, past award winners and Rotary district governors. Fans also were given the chance to vote online, and more than 30,000 votes were received.

Rickey is credited with breaking the color barrier in the Major Leagues in 1947 when Jackie Robinson, whom Rickey had signed two years earlier, made his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Previous recipients of the award include Dave Winfield, Kirby Puckett, Ozzie Smith, Paul Molitor, Torii Hunter, Tommy Lasorda, Roland Hemond and Clayton Kershaw.

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

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Chicago Cubs, Anthony Rizzo