Cubs player Anthony Rizzo inspires young patients at Lurie hospital

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Naperville teenager Justin Wenger is battling cancer and cheering for the Cubs. Player Anthony Rizzo is also cheering for him. (WLS)

As Anthony Rizzo plays Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday night in Cleveland, the Cubs player has a cheering section at Lurie Children's Hospital.

"He comes in and we all say 'Anthony's here!" said Allison Parise, a Lurie nurse.

Eight years after beating Hodgkin's lymphoma, Rizzo has cheered on some of his youngest fans who also are patients at Lurie.

"He sits right down with the kids, interacts, gives them a stuffed animal, a hat, an autograph. And he wants to know how they are doing, what they're doing and why they are here," Parise said. "He lets them know 'You can do this. I was here, too, and I can do this.'"

Naperville teenager Justin Wegner is in Rizzo's shoes. He was forced to put his college baseball career on hold to battle his own cancer diagnosis.

"It's very scary," Wegner said.

The reality has rocked his family, who has used Rizzo's story as inspiration and hope.
Rizzo, along with fellow Cubs player Kris Bryant, have shown Wegner direct support from the Cubs clubhouse.

"I keep the sign he sent us in my room and I look at it every day. Just knowing people like that are thinking of you is really cool," Wegner said.

His father, Ed Wegner, was equally touched.

"For a kid that has had to divert his life path for a while, it's nice to be noticed," Dad said.

Nurse Parise said Rizzo provides hope and inspiration for the young patients.
"No matter what I've been handed in life, no matter what diagnosis I've been handed, I can go on and do anything. I can be a professional baseball player," she said.

Rizzo's efforts don't go unnoticed by his fellow players.

"I think we have a unique bond with everything in our past and what we've been through and just talking to him through the years and what kind of inspiration this guy is to other people, not just on the field, but off the field, and what he's been able to do in the Chicago community and the community back home in Florida," said Cubs player John Lester. "For me, that's the cool thing. I look up to him on that."
Related Topics:
sportsChicago CubshealthCleveland Indiansworld seriescancerChicago - Lincoln Park
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