SURREY — Marco Iannuzzi may be a professional receiver, but nothing is more important to him than being a world-class giver.
“Any time I can connect with someone and know that I either helped them directly or helped someone important to them, it’s super special,” said Iannuzzi, a South Surrey resident and wide receiver for the BC Lions.
Iannuzzi recently received the CFL’s Tom Pate Memorial Award, which is given each year to the CFL player who best represents sportsmanship, dedication to the league and community service.
“It’s special to my family and me primarily because the sacrifice and time,” he said. “Every time I go to an event I am taken away from my family. To be recognized is not what I am doing it for, but to see the community recognize the sacrifice and time I’ve put in means a lot to me, my wife and kids.”
During his six years with the Lions, Iannuzzi has proven himself to be a huge proponent of giving back to the community through hospital visits, speaking to kids at schools or football practices and donating to various charities.
During the off-season, he says he often attends four to five events per week and during the football season, one or two.
He does a lot of work for Multiple Sclerosis (his mother has been diagnosed with MS), autism and BC Children’s Hospital, to name a few.
“I can’t even imagine some of the difficulties these families go through with their children,” he told the Now on his way for a visit to BC Children’s Hospital.
“I just get that feeling in my gut – that’s why I do all these events.
“That’s what keeps me going – and giving.”
His parents taught him to give at an early age and now, as a father of three, the Harvard grad is working hard to pass down these same attributes and values.
“We have a rule in our house that if you get something new, like a birthday gift, you have to donate something else to charity. At some of our birthdays, our kids, instead of gifts, ask for a toonie from each of the people that show up so they can put it towards a charity donation.”
As for the Lions, he expects big things for next season.
“We had a special squad this year, so it’s disappointing we didn’t go all the way,” Iannuzzi said. “But we did more than most thought we would so it was a good growth year for the organization.”
Iannuzzi joins Tyrone Crews (1986), Matt Dunigan (1989) Danny Barrett (1992), current director of community relations Jamie Taras (1999), Steve Hardin (2003) and defensive co-ordinator Mark Washington (2006) as members of the Lions to win the award.