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Mike Zimmer Foundation Awards $10,000 Academic Scholarship

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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –The Mike Zimmer Foundation on Thursday awarded its first academic scholarship to a student who overcame adversity with the help of athletics.

Gabriel Lammers, the recipient of the $10,000 Bill Zimmer Scholarship Award, is a senior at Lockport Township High School (Illinois). Bill Zimmer, the late father of Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, served as the wrestling coach and head football coach at LTHS for more than 30 years.

Mike Zimmer's daughter, Corri, runs the foundation and had the opportunity to interact with members of the Lockport community while handling the specifics of the scholarship.

"I have constantly been told what a great man [my grandfather] was and how his impact on the school, community and athletics is still there today," Corri said. "It's really touching, and I know he would be so honored to be able to change a young athlete's life in a way that this scholarship will." 

When Bill Zimmer passed away in August 2015, scholarship donations were made by friends and family in lieu of flowers. That amount, combined with an additional donation made by Coach Zimmer, comprised the $10,000 presented to Lammers in a ceremony at the school Thursday.

Each applicant was asked to submit a sports-centric essay, and it was Lammers' that stood out the most to both Corri and Coach Zimmer. Lammers shared in the essay that his older brother tragically passed away in 2014. In the midst of grieving, Lammers seriously considered giving up sports. However, he wrote the following:

"I was a captain and a leader on my team, and I was determined to show them that I could maintain both mental and physical toughness for the game."

Corri said it was that line in particular that especially struck her.

"The amount of strength and toughness Gabe showed during the season he lost his brother was admirable," Corri said. "It was something I saw firsthand when my dad coached an away game in 2009, the weekend after my mom passed away. My brother and I watched that game in the stands along with my grandpa and grandma.

"We all found some sort of healing through sports," Corri added.

Corri said she's always admired when people are able to turn their heartache into helping others – it's that very goal that drives the Mike Zimmer Foundation.

"We hope to honor [the spirits of] my grandpa and my mom in our hearts," Corri said. "We want to do some great things for some great people who deserve it, like Gabe."

Qualified applicants for the scholarship met the following criteria: they participated as a varsity athlete in football or wrestling; held a GPA of 2.75 or higher; planned to attend an accredited college, university or community college; and participated in extracurricular activities at LTHS or as a volunteer in the community.

In addition to being a four-year member of the honor roll and regular volunteer in the Lockport community, Lammers was a member of the varsity lacrosse team and a two-year starting linebacker on the Porters varsity football team. Following graduation, he plans to attend the University of Iowa. 

Choosing a student athlete was significant to the Zimmers.

"My dad was in the Hall of Fame at Lockport," Coach Zimmer said. "When he retired, he was the sixth-winningest coach in Illinois. He felt it was important that we pick someone that played the sports he was involved with, and we also wanted to keep his legacy going there."

The Mike Zimmer Foundation, created in memory of Coach Zimmer's wife, Vikki, has gained a large support system since its official introduction in March.

"The people that have helped us – it's been amazing, all the people that have donated, purchased shirts and went to the foundation kickoff," said Zimmer, preparing for his third season in Minnesota. "My daughter, Corri, has done an unbelievable job running it, as well."

The foundation focuses primarily on youth of the Twin Cities but has also helped in other areas, including recent support for Flint, Michigan, and the academic scholarship at LTHS.

NFL reporter Laura Okmin, who served as the emcee for the foundation launch, has gotten to know the Zimmers and their efforts to make a difference.

"The only thing Coach Zimmer talks about more than football is family," Okmin told Vikings.com. "Every time I'm around the Zimmers, I can feel the love they have for each other – and for Vicki. That's the heart of this foundation in every single way.

"I love this foundation for making such a difference to so many families' lives," Okmin added.

Corri and Coach Zimmer plan to continue their work to impact youth, make a difference in the community and honor their loved ones.

"It's important to us that we keep Vicki's spirit alive," Coach Zimmer said "And my dad's, as well."

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