It started as just a simple idea, one which took shape during a conversation in the Zimmerman living room back in early 2006.
Ryan Zimmerman, fresh off a season which saw him make his major league debut, wanted to start a foundation which would raise money to benefit the treatment and ultimate cure of Multiple Sclerosis, the debilitating disease which his mother Cheryl was diagnosed with in 1995.
The ziMS foundation was born, and initially was focused around a charity golf tournament in Virginia Beach. Since then, a banquet in Charlottesville has been added, and last night, the third annual “A Night at the Park” was held at Nationals Park.
The event drew over 750 people who interacted with Nationals players and coaches, took part in silent and live auctions and watched the band Guster perform on a stage set up in the Diamond Club just behind home plate. The event raised well over $100,000 and might have even topped the $200,000 mark.
Update: The event did indeed raise over $200,000, according to its organizers.
“Obviously because my mom has the disease, it was something I always wanted to do,” Zimmerman said of the foundation which is now in its seventh year of operation. “As a professional athlete, I think we have so many connections and so many resources that (many) people don’t have, and if you don’t use those, it’s kind of a shame.
“It’s very humbling to see how much people come out and support your cause and donate their time and money to something that doesn’t really mean too much to them. But it means a lot to me. It’s very special to see people do stuff like that.”
At the event last night, Zimmerman took the stage before Guster’s performance and awarded a total of $70,000 to two local MS-focused organizations. The live auction was also held on stage, with a number of sports and entertainment-themed prizes being given to the highest bidder.
This year is a monumental year in the ziMS Foundation’s run, as Zimmerman and his parents expect to exceed $1 million raised since the foundation was started.
“To do that in seven years, we’re pretty excited and pretty proud of that,” said Keith Zimmerman, Ryan’s father.
Nearly all of Zimmerman’s teammates were in attendance, which the Nats third baseman said he greatly appreciated, especially since the event came on one of the team’s rare home off-days during the season.
The foundation has been something close to Zimmerman’s heart since it first launched, and last night’s event showed how far the foundation has come since that initial family discussion back in 2006.
“I’d have to say, when you first break into the league, you’ve got a lot of stuff to worry about,” Keith Zimmerman said. “So for him to put this on his plate along with everything else he’s trying to deal with, it’s pretty special to us. And don’t let him kid you, when he’s talking, he’ll say, ‘Oh, my parents do all the work, and they have volunteers.’ But Ryan is a big part of this foundation.
“He opens a lot of doors for us to be able to meet and raise money and he donates a considerable amount of his money and time, and we’re very thankful for it.”
If you’re interested in learning more about the ziMS foundation or making a donation, you can visit http://zimsfoundation.org/.