Ryan and Heather Zimmerman have felt the support from the Nationals community throughout Ryan’s 15-year playing career, so when the coronavirus pandemic happened, they were compelled to give back
The Zimmermans founded the Pros for Heroes COVID-19 Relief Fund, a campaign initially designed to provide health care professionals at the Inova Fairfax Hospital with personal protective equipment (PPE) and healthy meals from the SuperFd catering company.
“The community has done so much for us,” Ryan said on a conference call Monday. “Those are the fans that go to the games. These doctors and nurses, the patients, the people that are getting hit by this are the people that come watch us play. The overwhelming consensus between all of us was, we all wanted to do something. We just needed a way to come together.”
It has been a quick rise for Pros for Heroes. The coalition was launched last Tuesday with the goal of generating $250,000. When it was highlighted during a 2019 World Series championship team reunion on Facebook Live that has been viewed 296,000 times, the donations flooded in.
To date, the campaign has raised over $300,000 from more than 1,300 donors. Its first delivery of 150 meals over Easter weekend quickly was topped with 500 meals per day this past weekend.
“The intention was, they come home from work, nobody has to cook dinner,” Heather said. “They can spend a little extra time with spending time with family. Or if they didn’t have family, just relaxing on the couch, putting their feet up and enjoying the time off that they had.”
The Zimmermans are able to have virtual calls with the health care professionals who are on the receiving end of the donations. While they cannot talk on the calls because they are covered up in their PPE, they do a group applause at the end.
“It’s super emotional for both of us. Ryan’s actually gotten choked up during most of them,” Heather said. “Last night, as we were ending the call, they had just gotten a trauma notification through their beepers, so they were all dispersing really quickly. … They’re truly heroes. The knowledge and the things that they have to do every day are something that only a special select group of people can do with a special set of skills.”
The bar has been raised to a goal of $500,000 in donations. The Zimmermans have received an outpouring of interest from other professional D.C.-area athletes. Nicklas Backstrom of the Capitals and Ryan Kerrigan of the Redskins got involved and were on a call with hospital staff members this weekend. John Wall from the Wizards recently messaged Zimmerman on Twitter about the campaign.
Zimmerman noted that while professional athletes may be making larger-scale donations, every dollar counts.
“Someone made a $5 donation,” he said. “I think people get intimidated by seeing the athlete donations, but I can’t stress enough how important every dollar is. A mask is $1, so the person who donated $5 might not think they’re doing much, but they’ve literally given five doctors or five nurses that can now protect them while they’re going in to work on these patients who are affected.”
Donors outside of the D.C. market can request to have their donations dispersed to other locations, too. If Pros for Heroes reaches its new goal, the Zimmermans may consider expanding the campaign to have athletes in other markets use it as a platform to help their local areas, furthering its reach and impacting more medical professionals.
“It’s definitely special for us,” Ryan said. “But I hope it’s special for them to actually get a sense of how much they’re affecting the community and how much we appreciate what they’re doing.”