After signing his first professional basketball contract with the Utah Jazz, and starting to shine on the court, Ta’Quan Zimmerman tried to direct some of the light to his inner city community of Waterbury.
In 2015, he started the Ta’Quan Zimmerman foundation, a organisation which aims to provide for underprivileged youth and young adults what he found in people like Mr. McBride, Ray Brown and Randy Brooks-someone who believed in them.
“I knew what I needed in the neighbourhood that I grew up in, that was a positive role model, someone that could just be on me, keep it real, stay positive, and try to find a way out the hood,” he said.
Be a baller, not a bully
Describing the organisation as a ‘big brother foundation’ Zimmerman explained that it focuses on anti bullying initiatives, using basketball as a tool.
The foundation has been hosting an anti-bully basketball summer camp for the past three years, called ‘Be a baller, not a bully’.
“We got testimonies from parents, saying how her son was bullied, and after camp it saved her son’s life because now he was stronger,” he said.
Zimmerman’s focus on anti-bullying initiative stems from his own experience of being bullied, and his intimate knowledge of the damage it can cause.
“I was bullied, and I try to tell them that bullying is wrong. At the time, as kids we think we just joking and we just trying to tell jokes, but you never know how that could affect the next kid,” he said.
I’m the buddy, not the bully
The foundation also started a campaign called ‘I’m the buddy, not the bully’. This campaign has been well supported by the NBA, and the NFL as well as by other athletes. Zimmerman shared that Erika Ringor, star of the classic Love and Basketball movie is also a big supporter of this campaign.
And while he works to stop bullying, he’s also busy trying to provide opportunities for these underprivileged children.
“I was bullied, and I try to tell them that bullying is wrong. At the time, as kids we think we just joking and we just trying to tell jokes, but you never know how that could affect the next kid,” Ta’Quan Zimmerman
“I sit on the school board of Holy Cross High School. I wanna get into the community and try to get some of the inner city kids a way out, and potentially get them into that school. Let them take the route that I took. Try to find a way we can help them get some more minorities or different kids into that school,” he said.
Adding that the children who participate in his camp get the opportunity to be awarded basketball scholarships.
“Lives are being saved, lives are being changed, friends are being made, bonds are being created in the camp,” he said.
Zimmerman’s love for giving back extends beyond his hometown of Bunker Hill. “My foundation did some stuff with hurricane Harvey that destroyed a big chunk of Texas, we donated money to families, and helped out at the Houston food Bay,” he said.
Today, when Zimmerman looks back at this journey as the fat kid from the inner city who fell in love with basketball, a skilled shooter determined to get into the best school, and now living his dream as a professional basketball player, he is thankful.
Thankful to God, his family, and the individuals he’s been blessed with in his life to guide him on his journey.
“Lives are being saved, lives are being changed, friends are being made, bonds are being created in the camp,”- Ta’ Quan Zimmerman
He knows, without a doubt that he has a duty to give back, and is more than happy to do so.
“God blessed me to bless others! I just think it’s my duty and my purpose to do so. My goal is to help others, to use my platform and my success at being a professional to reach out to kids to show them that you can make it. I try to use my story as an inspiration to reach and teach kids. Times May be hard but if you just fight and persevere you can do it,” he said.