Ryan Zimmerman and his wife, Heather, launched the Pros for Heroes campaign, (which has a goal of ensuring, “... that health care professionals have the tools they need to stay safe, including supplies, reliable equipment, and healthy meals for themselves and their families every day...”) just one week ago, and in the last seven days they have raised over $309,000 which is being used to provide meals and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for local healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic.
It probably helped the Zimmermans’ cause that they launched the initiative on the day last week that the defending World Series champion Washington Nationals held a Zoom call in which a number of players from the title-winning team participated as the players and fans all watched Game 7 of the 2019 Fall Classic together.
“They say timing is everything,” Ryan told reporters on another Zoom call this morning on which he and Heather talked about Pros for Heroes’ work.
“So for us to be able to launch the Pros for Heroes initiative that day,” he explained, “... and then have hundreds of thousands of people basically be put in front of it five or six hours after you launch it, with that unique platform that has really never been done before, and honestly I don’t think anybody will ever be able to recreate what we did that night, so I think that’s been a huge part of why this has been so successful so quick, now it’s just kind of our job to keep it going.”
S/O to the @InovaHealth team for helping us make just a little difference where we can. We are honored to have these daily (zoom) platforms to share our gratitude and thanks to the critical care members at home and on the front lines! #ProsForHeroes pic.twitter.com/EPdYf5hogN— Pros For Heroes (@prosforheroes) April 19, 2020
That they reached their initial goal so quickly, surprised both of the Zimmermans.
“We actually started at $250,000 on the GoFundMe page and had to bump it up to $500K because we got to that $250K so quick,” Ryan said.
“If we have another week this week like we did last week and all of a sudden we approach or pass that $500,000 and we have to reevaluate again, then you start to, I guess contemplate whether you want to try to get some of my good friends that play on other teams in other markets to basically use the platform and basically just put it in their market to help out their local hometown healthcare heroes.
“These are all things that I guess when we started it we never thought that we’d even have to have the conversation, but it’s a good thing that we’re having the conversation. But yeah, I can’t thank everybody enough for how they supported this.
“If we have another week like we had last week,” he reiterated, “... then who knows. It’s all about just continuing to get everyone and anyone to support and at the same time getting some more of my buddies from in town to get on board.
“We have a couple other guys that are in the works right now. So hopefully this week we’ll have some other exciting partners join on.”
The reaction to the initiative in the first week reinforced what both Ryan and Heather knew about D.C. and the surrounding area, and the support they’ve received from athletes in the nation’s capital and other residents has gone a long way already.
“I think Heather and I have talked about how awesome it’s been just to see everyone come together. Whether you’re a Caps fan or a Redskins fan, D.C. United is hopefully going to do something this week with us, so we’re trying to get every sport, and I think it’s given people kind of a glimpse into how tight-knit a sports community D.C. is.
“D.C. is not a huge area, so everybody kind of supports everybody. It’s been — it’s hard to think of the right word to explain it.”
Day or night, we are here to support!This weekend’s program will be feeding those critical care members who have been on the front lines, literally through the night, of the COVID-19 battle since the first cases came in. ❤️ — Pros For Heroes (@prosforheroes) April 18, 2020
#ProsForHeroes #NightShifts pic.twitter.com/NPLmRVzRhD
“You realize how special it is too,” Heather added, “... because some of these athletes that have gotten involved, have actually taken the initiative and reached out to us.”
“John Wall reached out to us,” Ryan interjected.
“It hasn’t all been Ryan calling up his buddies, and when he has called up his buddies, they respond in a heartbeat and are like, ‘Yes, what can we do?”
“John Wall reached out on his own through Twitter,” Ryan continued. “Guys like Santana Moss and people that have been posting about it are just doing it kind of on their own.
“I think it shows you how much these athletes care about their community and how much they think of themselves — you know 99% of us aren’t from here, and if you play here for a couple years, if you play for 5-10 years, obviously, but you feel like you’re a part of the community, and hopefully that shows the fans and the people that support us how much we appreciate what they do for us as well.”
As Heather mentioned, it’s not just large donations from Ryan’s friends among D.C. athletes who are making this initiative a success.
“Obviously, a lot of that is big donations from my athlete buddies, but I think the important message that Heather and I want to get through, we’ve had over 1300 people donate on the Go Fund Me page,” Ryan said.
“I was checking this morning, and someone made a $5 donation, and I think people get intimidated by seeing the athlete donation, but I can’t stress enough how important every dollar is.
“When you’re looking at these PPE, a mask is $1. So that person who donated $5 might not think they’re doing much, but they literally give a doctor or nurse, five doctors or five nurses a mask that can now protect them while they’re going in to work on these patients who are infected. So every little bit counts.
“If this thing is going to keep going, it’s going to be the community and the outpouring of support from everybody, not just the athletes.
“It’s nice for us to use our platform to get it out there, but it’s going to take a group effort from everybody.”
Working with D.C.-based SuperFd, the Pros for Heroes initiative oversaw the distribution of hundreds of meals a day over the weekend for doctors and nurses helping communities in these trying times.
“This past weekend we actually gave 500 meals a day,” Ryan said. “We did the night shift, getting off at 7:00 in the morning. So this Saturday, Sunday, and today actually, this morning, the groups getting off at 7:00 in the morning and going home had a meal, so we did 500 meals each day.”
“As long as we give SuperFd a heads up they can provide the meals,” Heather added.
“We’re trying to do as much as we can.
“As a lot of you probably know, because this snowballed and escalated so quickly we are now also able to donate money for PPE for all of Inova Hospitals, not just food.”
“We gave $100,000 to Inova last week,” Ryan said. “And that was a completely separate donation from basically the meals, so that $100,000 will be used by Inova wherever they see fit, in any of their hospitals around the area, so it’s not just the Fairfax hospital that gets to dip into that $100,000. And that will be used for PPE. So masks, gowns — “
“Some of it, they also said, some of their nurses and doctors, they’re having to still find childcare,” Heather said.
“So some of it they were going to give to nurses and doctors to help with their childcare, which is pretty awesome.”
“The people that are inundated with the most COVID patients and those are the people that — obviously, everyone is doing their part,” Ryan said, “... but those are the people that we’re giving the meals to, but yeah, I think as we continue to get more money and as we continue to kind of learn the infrastructure, we will have the ability to branch out to more than just this one hospital [Inova Fairfax], and that $100,000, we already have.”
If you can donate to Pros for Heroes, please do so here: