Get Out & Give Back: More Than a Home Run

by Editorial

Washington Nationals star Ryan Zimmerman speaks out on his ZIMS Foundation and the future.
By Chuck Todd

Ryan Zimmerman (center) with teammates Brodie van Wagenen and Tom Hagan at his "Night at the Park" benefit. Photo by Alfredo Flores.

Ryan Zimmerman (center) with teammates Brodie van Wagenen and Tom Hagan at his "Night at the Ballpark" benefit. Photo by Alfredo Flores.

When he’s not hitting balls out of the park as the Washington Nationals’ third baseman, Ryan Zimmerman is giving his all as president and founder of the ZIMS Foundation, a non-profit launched in 2006 to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis, a disease afflicting around 400,000 Americans, including Zimmerman’s mother, Cheryl. In August, Zimmerman’s “A Night at the Ballpark” fundraiser, held at Nationals Stadium, entertained over 700 guests and raised over $200,000 for MS research.

The fundraiser’s emcee, NBC News Chief White House Correspondent and political director Chuck Todd, caught up with Zimmerman to talk about Zimmerman’s hopes for the future of MS research, his team’s postseason chances (think 2012), and what’s next for the ZIMS Foundation.

Washington Life: How’s the foundation doing? How do you feel things are going this year compared to when you started it?

Ryan Zimmerman: Every year gets better. I think the hardest part is obviously the first year, getting it organized. It’s fun to watch it grow and get bigger and better. We started from nothing and now we have a pretty good thing going.

WL: How’s your mom? How has her disease progressed now, as opposed to when you were living at home?

RZ:Well, it’s gradually getting worse. It’s so weird because some people will have it for 20 or 30 years and it doesn’t really progress, and then for some people, like my mom, it will start off slow and then get to the point where she has to be in a wheelchair. She’s still stable and fine and healthy, but it’s just weird how it affects every single person differently. But she deals with it and has fun and comes to watch me play and doesn’t let it really affect her.

WL: What is your goal for the foundation over the next five years?

RZ: The main thing is to keep growing and keep getting better. Obviously, you want to raise as much money as you can and help find a cure, but I think spreading the word and letting people know about the disease is also a big part of it, and getting as many people to know and to help and just keep growing, keep getting bigger and better.

WL: What’s the next event for the foundation?

RZ: The next event is our annual golf tournament in Virginia Beach. It’s Halloween weekend this year. This will be the fifth year we’ve done this. This was kind of the event that started it all and has been our main event every year. We hope to have this and the event in Washington every year to be the two main fundraisers, but then my parents also do a few little things at home and we’re going to start trying to do a few more things up in Washington. But the golf tournament is the next big thing. It’s a little time before that but that one’s always fun.

WL: Well, tons of people are pulling for you to stick around here in Washington. Hopefully that golf tournament will have to be postponed in a few years, since that’s when the World Series seems to be these days.

RZ: Yeah, that’s what my parents always say. Hopefully, in a couple years we’ll have to move it back into November for good. That’s the plan.

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