Pictured: Ryan Zimmerman and his mother Cheryl / Chris Kennedy Images
Cheryl and Keith Zimmerman pride themselves on being family grounded people. Their biggest goal with their two sons, Ryan and Shawn, was to pass the value of family on to them. Monday night at Nationals Park, they watched with a glimmer in their eye as their oldest son Ryan of the Washington Nationals did his parents proud by sharing the value of family with over 700 people including his teammates, fans, and fellow District residents.
Ryan Zimmerman’s “A Night at the Park” was the first event held by his family’s ziMS Foundation in Washington, D.C. The foundation raises money to benefit multiple sclerosis research in honor of Ryan’s mother Cheryl who was diagnosed with the disease in 1995. As Ryan got a little bit older, he realized that if he ever had a chance to do something to give back, not just to his family but for everyone else who goes through daily life with MS in their own family whether it’s a parent, brother, or sister, he would do it.
“Obviously when I got to play baseball at this level I had the platform to kind of run with it and do something with it and I’ve had a lot of help along the way,” Ryan said. “It’s just something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve always wanted to give back to people who have helped me get where I’m at now and this was the perfect reason to do it.”
Photo courtesy of Chris Kennedy Images
The Zimmerman’s are as close to a home-grown family the Nationals roster has, having raised their two boys in Virginia Beach. Long days playing in the sand and water combined with baseball are among Cheryl and Keith’s favorite memories with their sons, but “A Night at the Park” is one of the most memorable to-date.
Ryan played his contract smart when signing with the Nationals. There’s no bigger or better city in the country according to him to raise awareness on a scale like he’s hoping to achieve than D.C. and the Nationals are a part of that. His contract allows the ziMS Foundation to host an event at Nationals Park once a year. “The front office, the Lerner’s, and the rest of the ownership group have always been there for us when we’ve asked for anything and they support our ideas,” Ryan said of the Nationals’ involvement with the foundation.
“A Night at the Park” was a party celebrating life, for all intents and purposes. Both the silent and live auctions raised a total of $200,000 for MS research, featuring autographed items from some of the biggest names in sports including Derek Jeter, Roy Halladay, the 2010 Washington Capitals, and Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews in the silent auction and exclusive “packages” in the live auction.
Once the bidding opened up on the floor of the Lexus President’s Club on a stage located within the seating perimeters behind homeplate, the true fun of the evening began. There was a John Lannan-Adam Dunn bidding duel to start the night and an Adam Dunn versus everyone else attempt to land a day of shadowing Ryan around in Flordia (which the clean-up slugger ended up winning and said he would donate).
Ryan’s teammates were at the park on their day off to support the Zimmerman family and ziMS Foudnation. Craig Stammen, Ivan Rodriguez, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, Willie Harris, Sean Burnett, and Ross Detwiler all had a rousing night at the park, cracking jokes and enjoying themselves.
“It’s kind of cool to see that those people back you up in your efforts,” Ryan said of his teammates. “Not only do we play baseball and do that stuff together, but we’re a pretty close group and I think this kind of proves how close that we are.”
Ryan Zimmerman / Photo courtesy of Chris Kennedy Images
An impromptu live auction item created by one of the evening’s performers David Blaine and event host Ryan came to life as the night unfolded – a day in D.C. or New York with both Blaine and Ryan learning magic and baseball. Nats blogger Miss Chatter landed that prize for her son.
Live musical performances included sets from singer-songwriters Mutlu and Amos Lee, both of which are phenomenal performers who attended the cause excited to be involved in something like it. Lee told Ryan that this is one of the most unique things he’s ever done and was happy to partake in the night, despite his Phillies fandom, because of a close family member who is affected by MS.
Photo by Rachel Levitin
It hasn’t been an easy route for the Zimmerman family.The past 15 years have been a learning experience for them, but their strength continues to be inspirational. Ryan remains optimistic that the growing network of people he continues to meet thanks to starting the foundation will prove to be a great gift not only in his family’s life but in other families lives as well.
“A lot of people have helped me get to where I’m at here and you know it’s kind of the same way the foundation started, the way I started here,” Ryan said. “We ultimately want to make the foundation become bigger and better and the next step was to bring it to a bigger and better city and there’s really not a bigger or better city in the world to do something like this than D.C.”
“I think if we can have a sports side, a political side and get a bunch of different things in this city and team up as one and could be something real special.”
For more information about how you can get involved with the ziMS Foundation, visit their website.