Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ryan Zimmerman's "A Night At The Park"--A ziMS Benefit Event

“We’ve gotten better and better each year. That’s the goal," stated Ryan Zimmerman. "We obviously started and really had no idea what we were getting into and just wanted to do stuff to help. Over the last five years it’s grown more than we could ever think we could imagine. And this (a Washington, D.C. venue) is a big stepping stone for us. We think from here, it could take off. The sky’s the limit from here.”

(All Four Of The Above Photos Courtesy Getty Images)
Our Washington's Nationals star 3rd Baseman was addressing the ziMS Foundation's premiere event in Washington, D.C. "A Night At The Park" to raise awareness and provide funding for the ultimate goal of finding a cure for Multiple Sclerosis. The debilitating disease that has affected Ryan's mom, Cheryl, since she was first diagnosed in 1995. Over 700 people turned out last night at the South Capitol Street Ballpark to share an evening with Zimmerman's Family, bid on silent and live auction items, and be entertained by the Creative Artists Agency's artists--David Blaine, Amos Lee & Mutlu.

"This is special," continued Ryan Zimmerman. "When so many athletes help to get you to where you are today and you are lucky enough to become successful in a sport, and you have the opportunity to give back, you really have to try. It seems like there is always someone, somewhere, that has a hardship--or someone whose family member is going through tough times. This is unique for me because it’s my mom, but I am sure there are plenty of others who go through the same things. But it doesn’t make that any less rewarding for me or for my family. We not only love helping them, but giving back to other people too--trying to help other families that are going through the same hardships as us."
(The Two Pictures Above Courtesy Of Getty Images)
As part of Zimmerman's long-term contract with Our Washington Nationals, the usage of Nationals Park one day per year for a charitable function was agreed upon. Brodie Van Wagenen (Ryan's Agent from CAA) and CAA Sports set up this benefit event. Over $200,000 was raised during the evening hosted by NBC News Political Director and White House Correspondent Chuck Todd. A night that also featured the ziMS Foundation presenting a $30,000 check to the National Capital Chapter of the National MS Society. A big step for a grassroots organization with humble beginnings in Virginia Beach, Virginia in 2006 that would not have have made it this far without the commitment of Ryan himself.

"The last five years have been a blur. He’s always given back to his family since even before he was a big-time baseball player," says Ryan's Dad, Keith. "So, it was kind of natural for him to continue that. I think he’s grown right into the position and it’s kind of cool to see how the Foundation has grown. From our first event five years ago--to this event and the event we have down in Virginia Beach--it’s pretty gratifying."

The ziMS Foundation is a family affair for the Zimmermans. Cheryl & Keith along with their youngest son and Ryan's brother, Shawn, handle the day-to-day operations for the charity. Very hands on, Cheryl has never been embarrassed to be placed in the forefront for the cause especially since the Z-Man knows his mom enjoys planning the events and raising money for their Foundation. But it's been a learning experience for everyone involved.
(Photo Courtesy Of Getty Images)
"Obviously, when she first got the disease you don’t really know much about it," stated Ryan. "The amount of knowledge we’ve learned about that, about how many people we know has someone that is affected by it. And there are even a couple of guys within our organization whose mom’s or dad’s have it. The amount of people you become friends with and you talk to--there is just so many small things in the world you would never imagine starting something like this. It kind of brought that to my attention. It’s amazing how you start something little and see what you can do."

Even to this day, Cheryl & Keith Zimmerman personally visit each and every organization the ziMS Foundation grants a donation. They take no shortcuts to finding the best fit.

Keith Zimmerman: "We have never given money to anyone who we haven’t gone and met and talked with face to face--asked them what they are going to do with the money and tour their facility--if it’s a facility. Unfortunately, you have to pick and choose. I wish we had enough money to give to everybody. So we feel we’ve chosen some gratifying organizations. They are very appreciative of what we are doing and it’s nice to see the smile on their faces. It took us nearly three years before we could start giving back. A lot of trial and error, a lot of mistakes, and we are finally at the point where we can give back now. That’s really nice to see the organizations that we are giving to benefit. That’s pretty cool."

The main concourse behind sections 127 and 129 on the 1st side at Nationals Park was set up for the silent auction for this ziMS Foundation benefit. Items of note included autograph uniforms from not only Ryan Zimmerman, but Dallas Cowboys Quarterback Tony Romo, Chicago Blackhawks' Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews and a team signed Washington Capitals Jersey. VIP Ticket Holders were given the additional opportunity to bid silently on a Canadian Train Adventure Package, a Maui Vacation and an Atlantis Resort Package.
(Photo Courtesy Of Getty Images)

The Live auction included an American Idol experience, a U.S. Open Tennis Package, a South Beach (Miami) Package and a Saddlebrook Resort Package which included a private workout with Ryan Zimmerman at the Tampa, Florida Resort. The Saddlebrook Experience the most contested bidding all evening. The final price reached when Adam Dunn made the winning offer of over $7,000.00. Magician David Blaine also offered up a special kids opportunity to learn magic that sold for $3800.

(Two Photos Above Courtesy Of Getty Images)

For his performance, Blaine made a private appearance in The Lexus Presidents Club for VIP Ticket Holders only. Working the room, Mr. Blaine held the rapt attention of both patrons and some of Ryan's Washington Teammates on hand for the night. Dunn, Pudge Rodriguez, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, Craig Stammen, John Lannan, Ross Detwiler, Sean Burnett and Willie Harris posting up in support of the ziMS Foundation and mingling with the crowd.
(Above Photo Courtesy Of Getty Images)
"It’s kind of cool to see those people back you up in your efforts," said Ryan Zimmerman. "Not only do we play baseball and do that stuff together, but we are a pretty close group. And I think this kind of proves how close we are."

Once the live auction concluded, Mutlu stepped to the stage built on top of the Presidents Club Seats at Nationals Park to perform. The warmup for a wonderful effort by Amos Lee. Joined at times by Mutlu, the Philadelphia born singer-songwriter and guitarist (who Ryan joked earlier was a Philly Fan but he wasn't going to hold that against him) performed some of his best folksy rhythm and blues. Having never heard Amos Lee before, Sohna and I really enjoyed his effort. Zimmerman so impressed with his work as well, Ryan presented Lee a specially autographed guitar at the end of the evening in thanks.

A special ending to a special night for the ziMS Foundation's Premiere Event in the Nation's Capital--furthering the effort to finding a cure for multiple sclerosis.
(Photo Courtesy Of Chris Kennedy Images)
"This has been my home, I guess for the last five years, "concluded Ryan Zimmerman. "I’ve grown fond of the city and I’ve met a lot of nice people. A lot of people who have helped me get to where I am at here and it’s kind of the same way the Foundation started here. We ultimately want to make the Foundation bigger and better. The next step was to bring it to a bigger and better city. And there is not a bigger and better city in the world to do something like this than D.C. So, it’s exciting for us and we are happy to (finally) get started."

Unless Noted--All Other Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved

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