Senior volleyball player Briahna Havis led the Foresters in digs this fall, but off the court she supports The Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation through event planning.
The Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation is a non-profit organization founded by Chicago Cubs first basemen Anthony Rizzo. The mission of the organization is to raise money for cancer research and to provide support to children and their families battling the Hodgkin’s Lymphoma disease, one that Anthony once battled as a teenager. When Rizzo was diagnosed with cancer, Havis mentioned, “he realized it was more difficult on his family than it was on him.” She continued, “that is why the organization seeks to provide support to the families.”
Havis met a member of The Anthony Rizzo Foundation while volunteering at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie’s Children Hospital of Chicago. Following the encounter, she was then given the opportunity to join Rizzo’s family along with one employee and one intern in May of 2015.
Given the small number of members involved with the organization, Havis has met Rizzo on a few separate occasions. The most common meeting place being the Lurie’s Children’s Hospital as it is a ritual for Rizzo to visit the facility once every month on a Tuesday. Havis mentioned that, “every time Rizzo comes in to the hospital he has a smile on his face, even if he just finished back-to-back games. His main goal is to put a smile on the children’s faces.”
In order to accomplish this goal, Rizzo wears a jersey to his Tuesday hospital visits and asks children to sign his jersey. Havis noted that this gesture is done in an effort, “to make sure the children realize that they are a hero within his eyes.” Following one visit with a patient, Havis remembers “a little boy immediately facetiming his best friend from home recalling the experience he just had with Anthony.”
It’s witnessing conversations like the one the little boy had with his friend that makes working for the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation incredibly rewarding for Havis. “Not only does Anthony make a large impact on children’s lives, but they make an impact on his life too.” Havis goes on to say that, “it’s also rewarding to see a smile on a patient’s face that is going through so much more than we can really understand and to see just how great their strength is.”
Havis has helped the foundation in various capacities, although primarily through event planning. The most recent event was the Cook-off for Cancer, which featured tasting portions prepared by notable Chicago chefs and then served by Chicago Cubs players. Havis helped coordinate the silent auction by taking inventory of items collected and then marketing those items on the foundation’s website. The event raised more than $630,000 to help families battling cancer.
As for upcoming events, Briahna looks forward to flying down to Rizzo’s hometown in Parkland, Florida for the fifth annual 5k Walk-Off for Cancer event on December 11. Havis will help with set-up and will oversee the merchandise table. Last year the event raised $215,000 and more than 1,000 people attended.
When asked about the foundation’s goals Havis said, “the foundation is looking to expand, but not too quickly. We are slowly trying to get larger in numbers and to make little improvements like adding one more event to the schedule and getting more office space.” She continued, “however, the main goal is to continue caring and supporting the families and kids fighting cancer. That’s our main priority.”
For more information about The Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation, visit http://rizzo44.com/ or follow the organization at @AnthonyRizzoFamilyFoundation.