Sunday, November 09, 2008

ziMS Foundation 3rd Annual Gala & Golf Tournament

The African Queens always says: "It's all about character."

Many times we have mentioned, right here on Nats320, quality charity work is important to us. As we have written, Our Manager Manny Acta gives back with his very own impACTA Kids Foundation. Our Now Former Closer Chad Cordero has, not only given back to children in the DC Area, but many others in his native Southern California. And not to be forgotten--EVER--Our Washington Nationals support their very own Community in which they exist, through The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation. Their ground support initiatives are making a difference in Washington, DC--and will continue to do so for years to come.

Yes, character means a lot to us--and Our Franchise Player is now leading the way through a very special, and personal effort of his very own undertaking.

You see, Ryan Zimmerman's Mother--Cheryl--was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1995. The debilitating disease that can take away any one's personal freedom of movement. 400,000 Americans are impacted by MS. And Our Number 11 is making the effort to find a cure. Through The ziMS Foundation--Ryan Zimmerman, along with his parents (Cheryl & Keith), his brother Shawn, and a cadre of family friends and volunteers--together they have hosted The ziMS Foundation Gala and Golf Tournament for each of the past three years. A home grown support unit dedicated to the treatment and ultimate cure of Multiple Sclerosis.

For 2008--Sohna and I finally had the free time to attend their now yearly event. What a pleasure this became to seek out and find many like minded and caring individuals. Since 2006, The ziMS Foundation has held a special late fall get together in Ryan's Home Town of Virginia Beach, Virginia. This year, The 3rd Annual Gala was held at The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center on Friday Night--November 7th. The following morning and continuing through the afternoon--A Charity Golf Tournament was held at the nearby Red Wing Lake Golf Course.

In The ziMS Foundation's first year of existence--$40,000 was raised. In year two--$80,000. The goal for 2008 was $150,000. And although they are new to this type of work--already, The Zimmerman's are having an impact. A few months ago--The Foundation granted their very first donation to a needy organization--by funding comprehensive support and educational programs. The University Of Virginia's James Q. Miller Consultative Multiple Sclerosis Clinic was given a $15,000 check for their ongoing work in multidisciplinary care and second opinion evaluation and assessment.

Yes, they are giving back. Just like their check, a few weeks ago, to The Arlington County, Virginia YMCA for $10,000 to establish an "Adaptive Yoga for the Nervous System Class". The ziMS Foundation is making a mark in the effort to control and cure MS.

No question, character does mean a lot to Sohna and I--and we were proud to attend this past weekend, bid on various auction items and attend the Golf Tournament. No, we are not golfers, but we showed up at The Red Wing Lake Golf Course to give our support, buy some ziMS Foundation Tee-Shirts & Polos--and have a good time--just like every single person we met over the past weekend. Make no mistake about it--everyone had a good time--supporting a worthwhile cause.

Of course--Sohna and I knew we were going to have an enjoyable weekend within moments of showing up at The Gala's Hotel--The Gorgeous Virginia Beach Hilton--right on the Atlantic Ocean. As our luggage was being unloaded from our car and taken to our room--who drives up to check in--but Ryan Zimmerman himself, and one of his best friends and former teammates--Brian Schneider. As you may recall--when Our Washington Nationals traded "The Captain" to The New York Mets, Schneider was kind enough to chat with me for a nice send off interview--thankful for his time as a member of DC's Returning Major League Team. We all said hello and later that evening Sohna and I had very nice conversation with Brian Schneider. Always decent and fun to talk to--the three of us chatted for some time at The Charity Gala--and again on Saturday Morning at The Golf Tournament.

Over 500 individuals registered for The Gala at $90 per ticket. Entry included Appetizers, drinks and your opportunity to mingle among the Virginia Aquarium Displays while bidding on hundreds of items. Some of which were quite spectacular--including a Special Ryan Zimmerman Signed Jersey, Bat, Cleat, Poster and Memorabilia; Tickets to three different Washington Redskin Home Games at Fed Ex Field against The Dallas Cowboys, The New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles. Also up for bid were signed uniforms of Reigning National League MVP Jimmy Rollins, The New York Yankees' Derek Jeter, All Star Game Home Run Champ & Former American League MVP Justin Morneau and 2008 World Series MVP--Cole Hamels and a Baseball Bat signed by, Sohna's Former Love--Alfonso Soriano--among many, many others.

But our favorite was the very special Curly "W" Surfboard which included lessons and appearance by Ryan Zimmerman himself to help teach anyone winning how to surf. Sohna and I have never surfed in our lives, but we LOVED that surfboard. Man I am telling you--it was cool!! Now that was unique. It sold for $1850.

We did end up winning a special case of ziMS Foundation Wines signed personally by Ryan Zimmerman. There was no way we were going home empty handed. Our other favorite--The Ryan Zimmerman Memorabilia was won by whomever bidder number 112 was--that person wanted that stuff-BADLY. Good for him, or her--and Good For The Foundation.

The next morning--on Saturday November 8th, we headed out to The Red Wing Lake Golf Course to take in the tournament. Pairings cost $1000 per foursome, and the goodies were quite excellent. Four Holes were sponsored with Hole-In-One Contests to win Vehicles. No one eventually won the cars--but a Lincoln MKS, Mercury Mariner, Toyota Highlander and Jeep Wrangler were all up for grabs. Special prizes were awarded for hitting a drive closest to the pin on four different holes. There were putting awards, as well as longest drives for men and women.

No tournament is worthwhile without a winner and of course, there was a Championship Team Trophy--for the top pairing.

We loved the special individual trophies given for the top three flights. Ryan Zimmerman Bobbleheads with special award bases attached. No one went home without a prize. That's taking care of your donors.

After everyone was finished golfing--Outback Steakhouse provided a steak, chicken and salad meal for all participants. Of course what's a party without beverages--Bud Light was provided all day long, while Dean Eitemiller (A Liquor Distributor) set up a Tiki Bar with liquor and jello shooters. Carafe Wines provided Wine Tastings. Water, Soda, Hot Dogs & Chips were available on selected holes of the golf course. We are telling you--This Golf Tournament was well run. Everyone was having a good time.

And no one was more pleased than Ryan Zimmerman's Mother. Cheryl Zimmerman was kind enough to chat with Sohna and I as we took in The ziMS Foundation 3rd Annual Golf Tournament.

With that very long preamble--here we go with Our Conversation With Cheryl Zimmerman:

Obviously, The ziMS Foundation Gala & Golf Tournament is personal for you, what does this all mean to you? (SBF)

“It means a lot. It’s important to find a cure and the fact that my son is personally involved makes everything so worthwhile.”

Ryan seems to be a very appreciative son. He’s done a lot to make this happen, this two day event must make you proud? (SBF)

“Definitely, he is making the effort and I am so very proud of him for that.”

Can you tell us how the ziMs Foundation began. Was this Ryan’s idea or a Family start up? (SBF)

“He brought it up to us (Cheryl and Keith). And we just went from there. We do all the work and he gets all the glory! (Everyone busting out laughing—it was said in jest)

Yeah, I noticed last night that he calls himself The President, but Ryan joked last night that Keith, as Vice-President, does a lot of the work? (SBF)

(Chucking and joking) “Well, yeah, he (Ryan) is The President, but you know how that goes!”

(Chuckling) Yet, Ryan has the stature to be the mover and shaker, he’s certainly must have been important to get this event to such status? (SBF)

“He is so important to the success of this operation. He’s done so much. He gets the memorabilia and calls on his many friends to help support the cause.”

So what kind of impact do you think The ziMS Foundation is having on Multiple Sclerosis? (SBF)

“Eventually, this organization will have a lot of impact. As you know, this is only our third year. We are going to come around and accomplish a lot. I hope it will, anyway.”

I know that The Foundation, just recently, gave a check to The YMCA in Arlington, Virginia, and another to The UVA (James Q Miller) Consultative MS Clinic (in Charlottesville). The Organization seems to be reaching out. (SBF)

“Yes, we have reached the point where we can start giving and hopefully start making that difference. It’s taken awhile, but that is the nice part about this effort.”

What kind of response have you received from the community for your initiatives? (SBF)

“More and more, we are getting the word out there. Others are beginning to understand what we are all about and the cause we are attempting to bring forward. But, we are starting to get some response, so hopefully, we can continue to build this effort and really make a difference.”

Is the entire Zimmerman Family involved with The Foundation? (The African Queen)

“Oh yeah, this is a family thing, family and friends. And without those friends, we wouldn’t be able to do or accomplish much of what we have. Without our friends and volunteers none of this (The Gala & Golf Tournament) would happen.”

Where do see this organization in a few years? What are the long term goals? (SBF)

“I would love to find a cure, simple as that. It’s why we do all this.”

Do you get much support from The Nationals? (The African Queen)

“Yes, they are real good about giving us items for the auction and awards. They help promote The Gala up there (in Washington). They have been very good at advertising us.”

How do you get the other players and celebrities to attend the Gala & Golf Tournament? (The African Queen)

“That is Ryan’s Job. He is The President. We leave that up to Ryan. He’s got the tough part.”

It was interesting at The Gala to see all the various auction items. It was not just a Sport Memorabilia Auction. There were artworks, gardening items and many other non-baseball items available? (The African Queen)

“The non sports items come around because of us (Cheryl & Keith). I've spent a lot of time on the phone talking to many people. And we travel around to many local business’s and ask for donations. I am a good asker (chuckling). And anything free, I will take it. But, seriously, we try to get a wide variety of items so that it’s not all sports stuff to accommodate all the different interests of those attending and support the effort.. Did you think we did OK? (Asking Sohna and I)

Yes, we both felt the auctions went well, especially considering how difficult the economy is for so many people in this country. Things are a little on the downturn. (SBF)

“Yes, very much so. And because of that we tried to keep to items that we knew people would be interested in picking up, that they normally would not spend money on. It was important to have unique items—especially with Christmas coming up—stuff for the kids.”

What is the goal this year in your monetary reach? (SBF)

“This year our goal is $150,000. The first year it was $40,000. Last year it was $80,000. So, we have made strides.”

That’s a significant difference for a start up operation? (SBF)

“Yes, definitely. And with the economy, we still hope to reach that goal. We have doubled each year, so hopefully everything will fall into place. We are very proud of the fact that we keep the expenses down, so when we say we raised $80,000 last year, we pretty much mean that is the amount available for use (to the cause). So, we do keep the expenses down. Just ask the family and volunteers, we do. (Laughing) We are not going to buy that! We should see if we can get that for free through a donation. Ryan might say he can go and buy it for us. But I will tell him, we would rather see if someone would be kind enough to donate. His response: ‘Ok, Mom!’ (chuckling)

He seems shy to us? (The African Queen)

“Ryan, shy? I don’t think I would call him shy. But he is pretty quiet, laid back and reserved. If you are around him as much as I have—shy does not describe him. No, not at all (all of us laughing).”

I would call him Reserved, But Out There. (SBF)

“Yep, that’s good. I like that.”

We see Ryan a lot playing baseball in DC. He’s seems well grounded—which comes from good up-bringing. Has he always been this way? (SBF)

“I would think so, yes. If he wasn’t, I would slap him across the head!! (busting out laughing) I keep him straight. I try to anyway.”

That's building character. (The African Queen)

How exciting has it been to see Ryan grow up and become a professional baseball player? (SBF)

“Oh, it’s been a real pleasure.”

When did you first start believing he could potentially become a professional player? (SBF)

“Probably when his got to UVA (University Of Virginia). We could see at that time that it was going to happen.”

Of course he grew a lot from High School to College. (SBF)

“Oh my god, he hates to hear me say it, but he was a scrawny thing in high school. Tall, skinny and scrawny—he weighed about 185lbs, maybe 6 feet tall or something like that. He got up to UVA and they have a very good conditioning coach. And after his first year there, we couldn’t believe how far he developed. The food bill went up a whole lot.”

From the very first time we met him in 2005, he seems to have grown up before our very eyes. (The African Queen)

"Yes, he's a good kid. He really is."

With that, our chat with Cheryl Zimmerman concluded. But, Sohna and I are not done yet with our coverage of The 3rd Annual ziMS Foundation Gala & Golf Tournament. Tomorrow--A One On One Interview with Ryan Zimmerman about his personal involvement to help find a cure for MS. The debilitating disease that certainly has struck close to his home.

Finally--if you are interested--you can still donate to the ziMS Foundation. Just click on this link for more information. We are sure The Zimmerman's would appreciate your support.


Anonymous said...

Great interview and story! We wanted to make it this year but had a scheduling conflict so glad to read about the success!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this wonderful story. Ryan Zimmerman is a class act. The Nationals really do need to do whatever they must to keep him in D.C. for a long, long time. I'm hoping this is the year they sign him to a long contract.

It's been a desert most of these four years, especially 2008, but Ryan Zimmerman is our oasis!