MINNEAPOLIS — Mike Zimmer and his family on Saturday officially launched The Mike Zimmer Foundation, which will give them opportunities to help others while honoring a lady who never missed an opportunity to care for people in need.
The Vikings head coach, his daughters, Corri and Marki, and son, Vikings linebackers coach Adam Zimmer spoke on behalf of their wife and mother, Vikki Zimmer, who tragically passed away at age 50 on Oct. 8, 2009.
Mike and Vikki met when he was an assistant at Weber State. He was an aspiring coach, and she had a passion for ballet dancing. Mike said his wife loved teaching and working with young people. He even recalled a couple of dance terms he learned from Vikki when he spoke with reporters.
"We're trying to keep alive her spirit. She was the nicest, kindest person — totally opposite of me," the 59-year-old said.
Fox Sports sideline reporter Laura Okmin served as emcee of the event. She spoke about the league-wide sincere respect for what Zimmer has done in his career and the importance of relationships.
"It's about people," Okmin said. "It's the most wonderful game. It's so entertaining, but at the end of the day, what makes it so unforgettable, so impactful are the people in this room and throughout the league.
"I root for good people and I am the biggest Mike Zimmer fan," Okmin added.
The foundation already has provided $10,000 in scholarship money to Lockport Township High School, where Zimmer's father, Bill Zimmer, coached football and wrestling, and sent money to Flint, Michigan, to help with the city's water crisis. Most efforts, Zimmer said, will be directed toward the people of Minnesota, which has become a home for him since his hire in 2014.
"The people of Minnesota have been so great to me that I want to try to give back to the community," he said. "It's good to have my family here and it's great to honor Vikki and do whatever we can for the community and state of Minnesota."
Corri, who still lives in Texas where she grew up, is leading the foundation. Corri said she appreciated help from Vikings Chief Operating Officer Kevin Warren and other members of the Vikings in launching the foundation.
Marki, who has moved to Minnesota, said she's "amazed and proud of the hard work [Marki has] put into the foundation and the passion she has in doing this for my mom."
"I don't know how to put into words the kind of person my mom was. She was my best friend and taught me everything," Marki said. "Everything she taught us in life was to do unto others as you would want them to do to you. I'm glad I was blessed to have someone instill that in my life."
The number of times that Corri and Marki have phoned their father with questions has increased since that sad day more than six years ago, but he truly enjoys being there for his children. Last week, Zimmer asked Corri, "What can I help you with?" multiple times. The answer included assembling baskets of silent auction items and other planning.
"I texted my dad the other day and said, 'You're a great boss,' " Corri said.
"We're already close and have a great connection, but the bond of honoring my mother, there's something special and unique about it," Corri said. "I always tell everyone she was the tiniest person but had the biggest heart. She loved helping people."
Zimmer recalled Vikki seeing a homeless person, going to the grocery story, and driving until she relocated the person. It wasn't a one-time instance of help for homeless. She also liked to leave gifts for the postal carrier, and listen and learn about others.
A key mission of the foundation will be to provide scholarships to underprivileged students to help them become overachievers. There are also plans for a football camp for young people and a golf tournament.
The Zimmers will work to grow the impact of the foundation with Vikki in their minds and hearts.
"I think it's great anytime you can use the platform you're on to give back to the community, especially a great community like Minneapolis/St. Paul," Adam said. "It's also great to honor my mom because she wanted to give back to people all the time. She was the most giving person I know. There's a little something special in her that's in all of us. Every day I think of something she taught me. We miss her a lot, but I'm glad we can carry on her spirit."
View some of the best images of Mike Zimmer from 2015.