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Local

Cubs’ Rizzo makes fan out of 7-year-old cancer patient

Chicago Cubs star Anthony Rizzo made a big hit off the field with Jax McInnes, 7, of Spring Valley recently. Rizzo visited Sment, who is battling brain cancer at Lurie's Children Hospital in Chicago last week. Rizzo is a cancer survivor, having been diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphona in 2008. He is a regular visitor to the hospital, whose 18th floor waiting room was renamed in honor of the Rizzo Family Foundation after its $3.5 million donation in May.
Chicago Cubs star Anthony Rizzo made a big hit off the field with Jax McInnes, 7, of Spring Valley recently. Rizzo visited Sment, who is battling brain cancer at Lurie's Children Hospital in Chicago last week. Rizzo is a cancer survivor, having been diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphona in 2008. He is a regular visitor to the hospital, whose 18th floor waiting room was renamed in honor of the Rizzo Family Foundation after its $3.5 million donation in May.

Jax McInnes does not follow baseball and didn’t know anything about Anthony Rizzo or how big of a star he is.

Jax, 7, of Spring Valley checked in to Lurie’s Children Hospital in Chicago in May for the beginning stages of his treatment for a brain tumor when his mother, Katie Sment, noticed quite a stir going on.

“The waiting room was a zoo. I said to myself, ‘Oh my goodness. What is going on?” Katie said.

She quickly learned that Rizzo, the star first baseman for the Chicago Cubs, was taking part in the dedication of the 18th floor waiting room which was renamed in honor of the Rizzo Family Foundation after its $3.5 million donation.

Katie then attempted to get her son to go up and talk to Rizzo, and Jax wasn’t interested.

“I said Jax, ‘You’ve got to go take a picture with this guy. He plays first base for the Chicago Cubs. He goes, ‘Mom I don’t even like baseball,’” Katie said.

When she finally got him to go up to Anthony, Jax told the Cubs’ star first baseman, only as innocently as a 7-year-old can, “Mom said I had to take a picture with you, and and I don’t even like baseball. Everybody was laughing because they couldn’t believe anybody would say that (to Rizzo).”

Last week, Jax and his mom got a chance for a second meeting with Rizzo. Katie noticed the trademark sugar cookies that the Rizzo Foundation provides for the kids and asked the staff if there was a visitor.

“They said, ‘Yep, and you’re wearing the right shirt,” Katie said, noting her Cubs T-shirt.

Rizzo approached the young Jax this time, now with no hair and thinner as a result of his treatments and found him much more eager to meet. Rizzo signed a Cubs hat for Jax that someone gave him.

Rizzo is a great ambassador for the game and the Cubs. He is a cancer survivor himself, having been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2008 at age 18 just as he was starting his professional career. You can read more about his story at http://rizzo44.com/anthonys-story/.

“I’m a huge fan; that’s amazing to me. He comes right up to you, asks if you want to take pictures, want an autograph. He hands out T-shirts — blows my mind, and that’s what he does,” Katie said.

“As a single mom to have a kid with cancer, and this is what he does. He’s a professional baseball player. He was at the hospital, and he had a game that night. When he’s in Chicago, I know he spends a lot of time there. No cameras, never like a security guard, media, nothing like that. He just comes by himself and stays until he sees all the kids.”

There’s a very good chance they’ll get to see Rizzo a few more times. Jax has a thalmatic tumor, which is inoperable because where it is located, Katie said. He’s made 14 of the 58 trips to Chicago scheduled so far with 10 treatments completed.

“They don’t mess around,” Katie said. “They get a treatment plan together. We were up once a week, just getting different things done. Met with the oncologist, had an MRI, had to have a biopsy. So we were up there quite a bit.”

Jax will be a second-grader at JFK School in Spring Valley. His mom said they will play it day by day depending on how Jax responds to his weekly treatments.

“His health has to come first. This tumor is not going to go away unless we keep on top of the treatments,” said Katie, who also has a 12-year-old son.

• Let’s all show Jax he is not in this battle alone. Pray for this young boy and drop him a line of encouragement to let him know you are thinking of him. If you’d like, you can send any correspondence to me, and I will pass it on to them.

Kevin Hieronymus is the BCR Sports Editor. Contact him at khieronymus@bcrnews.com.

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