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ziMS Foundation event draws 3,000 to Nationals Park

Jun 17, 2014, 6:00 AM EST

Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER

Long before he became a professional ballplayer, Ryan Zimmerman thought about doing something to help raise awareness of multiple sclerosis, the disease his mother Cheryl first learned she had nearly 20 years ago.

Once he did reach the major leagues with the Nationals, Zimmerman realized he now had the opportunity to make a difference. So he and the rest of his family talked about it at their Virginia Beach home after his rookie season, creating the ziMS Foundation with no idea what it could ultimately become.

Nine years later, as he prepared to host his annual charity event at Nationals Park, with a record crowd of 3,000 expected, Zimmerman couldn’t help but reflect on how far this whole endeavor has come.

“Growing up and seeing what my mom went through, and meeting other people who went through the same thing, I think me and my brother both thought if we ever had a stage or a springboard to do something about it, we would,” he said. “Fortunately, I do, and I’ve been able to take advantage of that. To think that this foundation was started and still is run out of our living room, to be able to give back over $1.5 million to try to find a cure is pretty special for us.”

“A Night at the Park,” the ziMS Foundation’s signature event, has grown considerably since its inception five years ago. Last night’s proceedings drew nearly twice as many participants as the previous version, with two musical acts (country stars Billy Currington and Jerrod Niemann), multiple stadium levels reserved, a host of Nationals teammates and coaches in attendance and countless items put up for auction.

All told, more than $100,000 was raised from this one-night event.

“It’s really hard to put into words,” said Keith Zimmerman, marveling at the manner in which his son’s foundation has grown. “It started almost nine years ago on the couch in our living room. We had some volunteers that said they were willing to help. Now to see that it’s grown into an event like this in D.C., it’s very hard to put into words.”

Philanthropy has always come naturally to Ryan Zimmerman, perhaps because the majority of his childhood — and likewose for brother Shawn — was spent helping his family get through the daily grind of life while his mother slowly began to feel the effects of MS, which has deteriorated her nervous system and left her in a wheelchair for more than a decade.

Helping out around the house simply was part of his life from an early age, as was the realization that Cheryl was one of the few lucky ones among the millions of MS sufferers around the globe to have the resources for the round-the-clock care she eventually needed.

“One thing I’ve learned the most is that baseball and life are way different, and unfortunately sometimes it takes something like this to teach me that,” Ryan Zimmerman said. “We had to do some things that kids normally don’t have to, but by no means are we the worst-case scenario. My mom does a great job of not letting it affect me or my brother. She doesn’t want us to have anything different in our lives than any other people do, and she doesn’t want to be treated differently. Seeing her strong will and her attitude about it has given me and my brother a different perspective on life that we never would have had to if she didn’t have to go through it.”

Now a first-time father himself, Zimmerman has even greater perspective on life away from the ballpark.

And occasions like last night’s event at Nationals Park remind him just how far he and his foundation have come in a relatively short amount of time.

“It’s pretty special to know that one night we decided to do something in our living room like that, and now we’re basically a nationwide foundation to help hundreds of thousands of people,” he said. “That’s the best part: To be able to help as many people as we can and be able to touch other people’s lives, not just our family.”

  1. natsjackinfl - Jun 17, 2014 at 8:14 AM

    Hat’s off to Ryan and his efforts to assist those less fortunate than him and his family. Really helps one to appreciate what a terrific team player and all around gentleman that he is.

    The Nats community is fortunate to have his presence on the field, in their clubhouse and living in the area.

  2. Doc - Jun 17, 2014 at 8:25 AM

    Thanks to Zim for what he and his family do to support efforts to manage and put an end to this pernicious disorder.

    Thanks also to the Nats’ players and organization for giving their time to this event.

    Thanks also to you Mark, for the thoughtfulness of the article.

  3. scnatsfan - Jun 17, 2014 at 8:26 AM

    It is always great when you see a celebrity use his ‘status’ for good. Those who sit back passively should take note.

    • Hiram Hover - Jun 17, 2014 at 8:43 AM

      Agreed. Some are just vanity projects, but that’s clearly not the case with Zim.

      I think more guys do this than we sometimes realize. I also remember John Lannan did some work (with children’s at NIH).

      • scnatsfan - Jun 17, 2014 at 9:31 AM

        Agreed. Lots of fringe players have golf tournaments to raise funds, some donate their time to play in them. And who knows how many players go to hospitals just to say hello. That’s what makes a player a hero, not a two out single.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 17, 2014 at 11:32 AM

      Every MLB player is required to put in community service time.

      Nothing passive about it. Some are just more visible about it like Zim and Pujols.

      I think statements like yours sometimes is the issue many celebrities have in charitable efforts.

      How much coverage did Strasburg’s 5K race get

  4. TimDz - Jun 17, 2014 at 8:37 AM

    Off topic, in “other Ryan” news:

  5. tcostant - Jun 17, 2014 at 8:59 AM

    I’m surprise this event doesn’t draw more people. The last to years Living Social had a deal on it, but the music setections just don’t interest me.

  6. natsjackinfl - Jun 17, 2014 at 9:18 AM

    Going to change the subject for a minute to bring about fairness to a comment made in the previous thread.

    “MW is the Nats version of Danny Ozark, who was a loser of a manager with a very good Phillies teams of the late 70’s.”

    Danny Ozark took over a Phillies team that went 79-97 in 1971, coming from the Dodgers where he had received his training from Walter Alston and Tommy Lasorda.

    His ’73 team went 71-91, ’74 team went 80-82, ’75 went 86-76, ’76 went 101-61, ’77 went 101-61 again and ’78 went 90-72.

    His Phillies teams won the Division in 1976, ’77 and ’78.

    Granted, he was replaced by Dallas Green in 1979 2/3 the way through the season when his injury plagued team was 65-67 and Green did manage to take a healthy team and win the World Series in 1980 against the Royals but fell to 3rd place in the strike shortened season of 1981 and was fired that off season due to brash personality that created clubhouse issues.

    He didn’t manage again till 1989 and lasted less than a season with the Yankees (56-65) then a year stint with the Mets where he never reached .500.

    Matt, I just hope you can get the Nats to the level that Danny Ozark got his Phillies.

    • natsjackinfl - Jun 17, 2014 at 9:19 AM

      That part about the Mets should read “a 4 year stint with the Mets”.

      • natsjackinfl - Jun 17, 2014 at 9:32 AM

        And that Phillies team that Ozark took ove went 59 and 97 not 79-97.

    • adcwonk - Jun 17, 2014 at 9:33 AM

      In that case 😉, I’ll repost my response to that comment:

      OK, I’ll take the easy two shots at this:

      1. MW has managed 60-some games in his life. Don’t you think it’s early to compare him to Ozark, who managed over 1100 games with the Phillies?

      2. Ozark managed the Phillies for 7 seasons, and finished in 1st place three times. That’s a “loser of a manager” ?

      • natsjackinfl - Jun 17, 2014 at 9:40 AM

        I found the original comment pretty baseless. It’s one thing to state your opinion. But at least be fair.

      • tcostant - Jun 17, 2014 at 9:48 AM

        I wish Mat Williams would learn one thing. If you think your pitcher is not going to give you more than 1 more inning than pitch hit for him. I watch both sides with Treinen staying in and then pulled early, just pitch himn for him with men on base. Same with Stras, you can pitch hit for him in the 6th or 7th, if your just gonna pull him the next inning anyway.

        Use all your tools…

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 17, 2014 at 10:31 AM

        We knew going into the season that he’s a rookie manager.

        When Fredi took over the Braves from Bobby Cox, I thought it would cost them. He did better than I expected, but I think it did cost them, nevertheless. I expect Matty will cost the Nats games by learning the hard way, on the job.

        “It’s amazing how much you don’t know about this game you’ve been playing all your life,” Mickey Mantle said.

        Matty will learn as he goes, and we get to watch. Consider the alternative: would you want a guy who doesn’t learn from his mistakes? Because you can’t have a manager who won’t make any.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 17, 2014 at 10:37 AM

        And it’s appropriately ironic that it would be the Phillies, since only a Philly fan would argue that that record means the manager’s a bum.

      • knoxvillenat - Jun 17, 2014 at 11:07 AM

        “When Fredi took over the Braves from Bobby Cox, I thought it would cost them. He did better than I expected, but I think it did cost them, nevertheless. ”

        But if I recall correctly Fredi had previously managed the Marlins so he at least had some major league managerial experience whereas Williams had none.

        Natsjack……thanks for the research on Danny Ozark’s record in Philly. I’m always suspicious of a poster who makes general sweeping comments, negative or positive, without citing any references or sources.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 17, 2014 at 1:29 PM

        I stand corrected on Fredi Gonzalez, Knoxville. Thank you.

    • Hiram Hover - Jun 17, 2014 at 9:48 AM

      Thanks for this, NJ.

      Some folks have wondered how and whether it’s worth responding to trolls and the wild ravings of the LOD. Should you ignore them hope and they’ll go away, despite abundance evidence to the contrary? Should you reply to them, knowing that reasonable and reality based discussion is not what they’re looking for?

      Thing is, it’s not only about the LOD/trolls–comments like NJ’s can be of value to other readers, who can learn something even if the original commenter can’t or won’t.

      So from someone who did learn something–thanks again.

      • jd - Jun 17, 2014 at 10:01 AM

        You have to consider the source. Mick (the originator of the Ozark vs. MW comments) is very obviously a passionate Nats fan but he also very obviously has a football mentality that just won’t change. When you live and die with each game the way he does you tend to form strong opinions based on very little other than strong gut reactions to the current or previous game.

        There is no way any one can have a reasonable evaluation of MW as a manager, positive or negative until he has some sort of a track record. I’m sure he is still figuring things out and I’m sure he is better now than he was at the start of the year and he will be better at the end of the year than he is now.

        If you put things in perspective consider this: You lost 3 hitters from the middle of your lineup for roughly 2 months each and you are coming off probably the hardest road trip of the year but you are .5 a game out of 1st place. not awful. right?

      • Hiram Hover - Jun 17, 2014 at 10:21 AM


        Agree about the football mentality – I didn’t want to make this about one poster, but yeah, I’ve reader enough of Mick’s comments to know what to expect. And to be fair, I have him on my scorecard as a wild raver rather than a troll.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 17, 2014 at 10:23 AM

        Jack, thanks +2 for your trenchant, straightforward, and compassionate response. Most of us don’t summon that in such cases.

        A wise friend once told me, “Never [mess] with tiny minds; it only makes them worse.”

    • unkyd59 - Jun 17, 2014 at 2:45 PM

      +1 I posted similar sentiments several weeks ago, when Matty’s head was being called for after a few weeks. As I said then, I don’t expect him to be a veteran manager until… he’s a veteran manager!

  7. scnatsfan - Jun 17, 2014 at 9:32 AM

    Please stop muddying your argument with facts and numbers. Please use your gut like I do.

  8. natsjackinfl - Jun 17, 2014 at 10:09 AM

    Just read your post, jd and I agree about Mick. He is definitely not a troll but to have already decided that Matt Williams is some clueless baseball runt and then label Danny Ozark a “loser” required a retort.

    Hope everything is well with you.

    • jd - Jun 17, 2014 at 10:59 AM


      Everything is great. I haven’t yet gotten 100% into baseball because of all the other sports going on (I was particularly immersed in the hockey playoffs and I do like soccer) and our season has been much more difficult than I had anticipated due to injuries but overall I remain very optimistic about our prospects.

      It’s always great to hear from a reasonable source such as yourself. Lots of crazy banter here sometimes.

    • micksback1 - Jun 17, 2014 at 1:39 PM

      TY, although i have been seen under a few bridges in my time, LOL, but that was for different reasons

  9. Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 17, 2014 at 10:16 AM

    If I may switch back to Zim and the foundation?

    Great respect to Ryan and his family for this excellent and other-centered contribution to the world.

    I am sure they do good work, but I was wondering exactly what the foundation does, so I looked it up.

    UVA Department of Neurology total donations to date $757,000
    The mission of the developing clinic is to provide the full range of multidisciplinary care for patients with MS and related diseases as well as second opinion evaluations and comprehensive assessments… The donations will be used to enhance the abilities of the clinic to provide services to patients with MS.

    National Multiple Sclerosis Society National Capital Chapter to date $145,000
    On August 9th, 2010, Ryan Zimmerman presented a check from the ziMs Foundation for $65,000 to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society National Capital Chapter. These funds will help benefit the chapter’s programs in physical fitness and help families that need financial assistance.

    National Multiple Sclerosis Society Hampton Roads Chapter to date $210,00
    The ziMS Foundation this year donated $40,000 to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Hampton Roads Chapter, bringing the the total monies donated to $210,000 over the last 6 years. These funds will be used for financial aid and educational programs for people living with Multiple Sclerosis.

    It’s relatively small (<$1M/y), so Charity Navigator and American Institute of Philanthropy don't rate it.


    • ArVAFan - Jun 17, 2014 at 11:33 AM

      I reviewed the 990 for the Zims Foundation (available at Both the organization and the return look good. And yes, I am professionally qualified to make that statement.

      I’d go to the fundraisers, but I don’t like the choice of the music. I wish they had an on-line auction so I could bid on stuff without going. Or different music.

      While we’re on the subject of community activities, don’t overlook Ian Desmond. He’s really active with the Dream Foundation, and just did a separate Indigogo charity fundraiser as well.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 17, 2014 at 12:21 PM

        I’m glad you mentioned Desi. He also does a lot of volunteer coaching and youth work in the off-season.

        I’m old fashioned. Give when nobody is looking, you don’t get all the accolades but your soul and God knows.

        Also plenty of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Most youth coaches are volunteers. Talk about the time commitment!

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 17, 2014 at 1:34 PM

        “Give when nobody is looking, you don’t get all the accolades but your soul and God knows.”

        Interestingly (or not, depending), that is the origin of the expression “left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing,” which has gotten all turned around, as tends to happen.

        “But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.”
        Mt 6:3 (KJV)

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 17, 2014 at 1:36 PM

        “Both the organization and the return look good. And yes, I am professionally qualified to make that statement.”

        Thank you ArVaFan, that’s good to know, and another reason the comments section here rules.

      • natinalsgo - Jun 17, 2014 at 4:00 PM

        Sec3 and the Ghost getting down for the Lord’s work! Impressive once again!

        Another side to you guys! Sec3 and Ghost doing some preachin’ and teachin’

  10. Baseballswami - Jun 17, 2014 at 10:20 AM

    What a classy guy.

    • kirbs3256 - Jun 17, 2014 at 6:45 PM

      It’s funny…..the list these as the issues the braves will face

      Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, Doug Fister and Tanner Roark.

      When your “5” is an issue, that’s a very good thing.

  11. natsfan1a - Jun 17, 2014 at 11:49 AM

    On topic, I’m glad that Zimm is part of the Nats organization, and I’m glad that his event was a success.

  12. natsfan1a - Jun 17, 2014 at 11:50 AM

    On topic, I’m glad that Zimm is part of the Nats organization, and I’m glad that his event was a success.

    (Duplicate comment – huh?)

  13. natsfan1a - Jun 17, 2014 at 11:52 AM

    Well, I’ll be darned, it is a duplicate comment. I’m going to go ahead the blame the home renovations. (Yeah, I just totally threw our remodelers under the bus.)

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 17, 2014 at 2:00 PM

      A double-decker bus, at that.

      • natsfan1a - Jun 17, 2014 at 2:14 PM


      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 17, 2014 at 2:48 PM

        I’m here all week!

        Try the veal.

  14. NatsLady - Jun 17, 2014 at 1:28 PM

    Here is the Injury Daze and Astros Series Preview

  15. tcostant - Jun 17, 2014 at 1:34 PM

    Pettibone out for the season, the Phils just can’t catch a break…

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 17, 2014 at 1:37 PM

      See, if we were Phillies fans, I’d say they can’t catch anything else, why should you expect them to catch that?
      (bada boom!)

      • natsfan1a - Jun 17, 2014 at 2:15 PM

        (Ha! I hadn’t seen that when I posted my 2:14 item. :-))

  16. micksback1 - Jun 17, 2014 at 1:38 PM

    fair enough on Ozark’s overall career, however, to be fair to my comparison, let’s remember a few things about MLB back in the decade of the 70’s, there were 2 divisions, six teams in each. The NL East, other than the 1971 and 79 Pirates and the 73 Mets (which was an anomoly, due to the NY fans psyching out Pete Rose and the Reds), this division was very weak and the Phillies for the most part were a forgone conclusion to be favorites to win the east annually. My point was that, Ozark never won a single post season game with a loaded team. the nats, persumed, are loaded, right? based on all the experts who have picked them the past 2 seasons. i just do not see anything special or different about MW so far and I do no feel my comments were baseless

    • adcwonk - Jun 17, 2014 at 2:06 PM

      That’s not accurate, Mick.

      Over all, during those years when the Phils won 3 straight titles, the NL East and West were approximately the same strength. Over all. In different years there were differences — for example:

      The NL East in 1977, where the Phils won 101 games, was better than the NL West (you can look it up here: The Pirates won 96 games finishing second (while in the NL West, the top two teams were LA (98) and the Red (88). The only team that lost 100+ games was in the NL West.

      Ozark never won a single post season game

      That’s not right either. In 1977 they and the Dodgers were clearly the best teams in the NL, but lost to LA 3 games to 1 — mostly because of lousy pitching performances by their starters (which had nothing to do with the manager). Plus, LA was a darn good team, too: Garvey, Lopes, Dusty Baker, Rick Monday, Reggie Smith — and they had a couple of pitchers, too: Sutton, Tommy John, Hooton, Rhoden. Phils lost 3-1 the following year, too.

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 17, 2014 at 2:10 PM

      As I recall, the Phillies did lose in 3 to a really loaded Reds team that also won 100+ games in 1976, but in 1977 and 1978 they lost both NLCSs to the Dodgers, 3 games to 1. So he did win two postseason games. Just saying.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 17, 2014 at 2:12 PM

        Dang. Low man again.

        You going to be at the game tonight, Wonk, I’ll pay up.

      • adcwonk - Jun 17, 2014 at 2:35 PM

        Drats — we were *almost* going to be at the game tonight, but the Wonkling, back for the summer, had her wisdom teeth out yesterday, and she’s not fully up for it.

        Enter it into the sheet, and we’ll catch you next time! 😉

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 17, 2014 at 2:43 PM

        Already there. Next time for me is July 5.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 17, 2014 at 2:44 PM

        BTW, I have an extra ticket tonight.

  17. micksback1 - Jun 17, 2014 at 1:41 PM


    I did go into the cards series expecting to wn ne game, i even posted that winning only 1 game verse cards would be a good step. The Nats have to get over what I feel is becoming a mental block verse Cards and Braves

    • Section 222 - Jun 17, 2014 at 1:51 PM

      Me too. I’m pretty sure I posted: “I’d be shocked if we were swept, and 6-4 on the roadtrip would be just fine.”

      Oh well.

    • jd - Jun 17, 2014 at 2:03 PM

      See, I don’t believe in mental blocks. I think it’s all about who pitches against you on a given day and how they do. I think the Nats were ripe for the taking this past series because of tough travel, another key injury (Ramos).

      I don’t think the series proved anything other than Adams is a pretty good hitter. I would welcome the opportunity to take them on again with a full team and not at the tail end of a 10 game road trip.

      Having said that, let’s go win a game tonight.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 17, 2014 at 2:23 PM

        I have to say, I definitely believe in mental blocks, as I understand the term in this context, but I don’t believe there’s any relationship whatsoever between what fans, individually or collectively, expect to happen, and what actually does happen. Not even predictive.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 17, 2014 at 3:15 PM

        “The scientific approach to the examination of phenomena is a defense against the pure emotion of fear.”





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