Monday, November 10, 2008

Ryan Zimmerman & The ziMS Foundation

Ryan Zimmerman has become the leader of Our Washington Nationals. The Franchise Player with the great baseball talent and the mental makeup to use those skills wisely on the field of play. But as exciting as his burgeoning Professional Career has become for many Fans in Washington, Our Number 11 has also understood he can make a difference in the lives of other's less fortunate. Three years ago, Ryan Zimmerman, along with his parents, started a grass roots Foundation to help fight Multiple Sclerosis. A personal venture that struck home in 1995 when his Mother, Cheryl, was diagnosed with MS.

This past weekend, The ziMS Foundation held their 3rd Annual Gala and Golf Tournament in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The 2008 Goal to raise $150,000 in donations. After the Golf Tournament ended late Saturday Afternoon, Ryan Zimmerman sat down with Sohna and I to discuss his very personal challenge to help find a cure for Multiple Sclerosis.

With that, here we go with Our Conversation with Ryan Zimmerman and The ziMS Foundation.

What Sohna and I have noticed right away is that you are having fun with all this. (SBF)

“Yes, this is a lot of fun. Obviously, this means something to me personally. A lot of athletes now have Foundations to raise money and awareness. We realize we (as a family) are in a good situation. We are lucky to be where we are at. It took a lot of hard work to get here, but we are a lot more fortunate that many others are. So, it’s very nice to be able to give back. Certainly, for me with my Mom, it all hits a little bit closer to home. But to have everyone come out, be in the same spot, that’s the coolest part. Everyone has gathered together to support one cause—it really makes this a lot of fun and worthwhile.”

You have be proud that you are in a position to be a difference maker? (SBF)

“I feel lucky. I always feel blessed and lucky to be where I am. You can’t just do it on your own, you have to have a bunch of people help, like many of these people here (gathered for the events). They have all helped me to get where I am at--and now it's kind of nice to see them all come back and help when we are trying to do something important for a common goal.”

One thing we noticed over the past two days—the camaraderie is really good. (SBF)

“Well, that is the nicest thing about having this here in Virginia Beach. I have lived here going on 20 years now. I, obviously, know a few people around here (chuckling). But they have really helped me get to where I am now. And my parents have developed great relationships with so many. It’s really great to be able to hang out and come together for one cause.”

Obviously, a cure for MS is what everyone would love to see. Realistically though, what are the goals for The ziMS Foundation over the next few years? (SBF)

“We continue to get better and better every time. The first couple of years were pretty tough. Now, we are at the point where we’ve built up funds so we can actually begin to give back—as you saw last night. The Golf Tournament gets better each and every year. We really want to move into doing a couple of events up in DC. Especially, now since we have this location pretty much locked down. Hopefully, we can do some stuff up in DC. I would love to do a bowling event there. We have even talked about doing some concert stuff. So, we shall see what happens.”

Branching Out? (SBF)

“It’s how you make a difference.”

We were talking with your Mom while you were golfing. The Foundation raised $40,000 the first year, $80,000 the second. Any idea how much has been raised this year? (SBF)

“I have not heard a total yet, But as you know, this year has been tough. The economy is wearing on everyone. So, I haven’t seen the final numbers yet, but it will be interesting to see. But what all this shows (the amount of people attending and the enthusiasm) the quality of people we are involved with and they are people that really care. That makes all of this special for us (The Zimmerman Family).”

Then despite a difficult economy, you are very pleased with the turnout this weekend? (SBF)

“Yeah. I have been to a couple of other events where they were struggling to get foursomes (for the golf event). We have a really good turnout (144 Golfers, $1000 per foursome) for this golf tournament and we had a really good turnout last night at The Gala. There was some good money made on the live auctions. It shows the quality of people we are attracting and the fact that they care. It’s very nice and, obviously, we couldn’t do this without their support.”

When you gave the $10,000 Grant to The Arlington, Virginia YMCA to establish a new program (Adaptive Yoga for the Nervous System) and The UVA Multiple Sclerosis Clinic ($15,000)—how were those organizations chosen? (The African Queen)

“There is a link on our website to apply for a grant. And as you apply, we take them in and choose which ones we feel are most fit, or a good idea. We haven’t had that many yet because we are just starting. But obviously, MS is the main thing. And the Yoga in Arlington is specific for Neurological and MS—I think it’s one of the only specified classes like that on the entire east coast (of the United States). Certainly, it’s one of the first one’s (dedicated to the cause). And obviously, I have close ties to Virginia (UVA) with the neuro-science there, so it’s very nice to be able to give back to a place that helped me get to where I am right now.”

So, they apply and you decide how much money they get? Sort of like a scholarship. (The African Queen)

“That is exactly how it works—pretty much. It’s actually cool to be at that point to give money back. That’s why we all work so hard. It’s taken us a little while to get to that point—but now that we are—it’s very special.”

Has this effort moved far quicker than you thought? (SBF)

“I didn’t have any idea what to expect (when The Foundation began). I didn’t know. I don’t think my parents even had any idea. But we feel like we are doing really good. All the people we have talked to that have done similar efforts all say we are going really well. So, that’s really good to hear.”

Sohna and I have attended many charity events over the years, and we have to tell you, this one is run really well. (SBF)

“That’s thanks to the many volunteers. These are mostly people we have known from me growing up. Me or my brother (Shawn) played sports with their sons. A lot of them work at the Rec Center where my Dad works. All those people come out to support us and we can’t thank them enough.”

This almost feels like an extended family affair. (The African Queen)

“Well, that's the hardest part of running The Foundation. You don’t want to pay for anything. You want as much of the funds raised to go toward MS. It’s very hard to find people to donate their time, or items (for the auction). Luckily, we found some solid supporters to help us out.”

Everyone seems to work well together. (The African Queen)

“Everyone is having fun. This is not business, it’s more like having fun, being with our friends and being here for a specific cause. Hey, you might as well have fun while you are doing it.”

With that Our Conversation with Ryan Zimmerman and The ziMS Foundation ended. Hopefully for years and years to come--Our Number 11 can continue to assist his family and others in trying to cope and find a cure for Multiple Sclerosis. No one can say Ryan Zimmerman is not trying.

But we were not done yet with The "Z-Man". The chat then turned to Major League Baseball and Our Washington Nationals--his career. What Ryan Zimmerman hopes and expects to see out of, not only his teammates in 2009, but The Franchise itself. It's a good read. That conversation coming next on Nats320.

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